My Mom’s Date Squares
About a year ago, I came into possession of my mom’s recipe box. Now, I lost my mom to cancer 12 years ago, so this is somewhat of a treasure to me.
Not just because these are recipes I remember her making (and me loving), but also because many of them are in her handwriting. The cards are frayed and stained and obviously well-used.
I previously shared an accidentally vegan recipe I found in this box of my mom’s recipes called Wacky Cake, but today I want to share another one.
My mom had a few favourite desserts. She loved rice pudding, and classic cookies like peanut butter and chocolate chip. But she also made killer date squares.
She didn’t call them date squares, though, she called them Matrimony or Matrimono Bars (because dates lead to marriage?).
Nobody seems to quite know the exact origins or history of this recipe, except that it probably originated in Canada, quite possibly Newfoundland, and is maybe Scottish in its heritage (because of the oats?). Today everyone just calls them Date Squares. But I’m curious about where the “matrimony” connection comes in? Were they served at weddings? Do the layers have some kind of symbolic significance of two people coming together to be one? No idea, though the name seems to be regional in its origin and my mom was born on, and grew up in, the Prairies.
But here is the card in my mom’s writing….errrr typing? One thing you’ll notice is there are no directions. This is pretty typical of most of her recipes. She made these so many times, she didn’t need to be reminded of how to make them, just the quantities of ingredients. I have included the directions below.
You’ll notice that this recipe is also accidentally vegan.
By the way, when I made these and distributed them amongst my neighbours for taste-testing, they were pronounced the best date squares they’d ever had, so… thanks, mom.
My Mom's Date Squares
- 1 cup margarine/vegan butter/regular butter if you're not vegan
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups oats
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups pitted dates
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Grease a square 8" or 9" cake pan well, or line with parchment, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar and 1 teaspoon each of salt and baking soda.
- Melt the butter and pour it over the dry ingredients. Toss just until combined. Dump about half of the mixture into the pan and press it down to make an even layer.
- In a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat, place the dates, water, and remaining baking soda and salt and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the dates are softened. Mash them up a bunch with the back of a spoon to make them a bit smoother. Pour this date mixture overtop of your base layer in the pan.
- Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the date layer and press it down lightly.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown on top.