Grief is a weird animal.
It’s been eleven years since I lost my mom… a lifetime, almost. Sometimes, when I tell people that I lost my mom to cancer, they say “oh, I’m sorry!” and I get it, that’s a natural reaction.
I usually brush it off. It has been, after all, a long time. More than a decade. And I did a bunch of therapy, which was really good.
And mostly, it’s okay. I’m happy, my life is good, and I don’t think about her too much.
But Mother’s Day is one of those times that I do. How can you not?
The weirdest thing is, I have discovered myself craving certain foods leading up to days that could be emotionally loaded. Like earlier this year, in February, I had the weirdest, obscure craving for pea soup. It’s not something I would normally crave, but crave it I did. I was halfway though making a pot of pea soup when I remembered that it was one of her faves. She made giant pots of it with hamhocks gently bubbling in a green sea.
My inexplicable craving was actually a longing to be close to my mom, but it played itself out in food.
More recently, just before Mother’s Day, I had a really strong craving for date squares. Another thing my mom made all the time, and loved. She called them “Matrimony Squares,” though.
Nobody quite knows where the name came from, but they were popular on the Prairies, where my mom grew up. Supposedly the two layers “sandwiched” together represent marriage.
Most people today just call them Date Squares, and honestly, they are a really simple and tasty treat. What I love about these is that they require very little processed sugar, a few simple ingredients, and almost no technique.
They are a simple, rustic, comforting dessert.
My mom, of course, made these with butter, but I’ve substituted coconut oil, which works great.
Vegan Date Squares
- 1 cup AP flour
- 1 cup oats (the quick cooking kind work better here)
- ½ cup +2 tbsp melted coconut oil
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 cups pitted dates, chopped
- 3/4 cup water
- ½ tsp baking soda
- Mix together the flour, oats and brown sugar, then add in the melted coconut oil and mix everything together, using your hands if need be.
- Line a square baking pan with parchment, or grease it well. Dump about half of the crumble mixture into the bottom of the pan, and then press it down firmly with your hands.
- In a medium saucepan on medium heat, place the dates, water and baking soda. Stir well, and bring up to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low. Allow the dates to cook and soften, stirring occasionally, until they become a jam-like consistency. Turn off the heat and place to the side to cool a little.
- Scrape the date mixture onto the bottom crumble layer in the pan, and then smooth overtop in an even layer.
- Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture over top and scatter it around so that it coats the date layer evenly. You don’t need to press it down.
- Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden.
- Allow to cool, then cut into squares.