I recently had my yearly physical. My lipid profile aligned me with the Ikarians. However, I also had a walnut-sized lump in my left breast that dictated a mammogram. I am not sure why so many women complain about them. Having your breasts smashed between two synthetic plates is nothing compared to having them biopsied, penetrated with a needle and then fished around in, like you were searching for car keys in an oversized purse.
Except instead of gathering keys, tissue samples are collected and sent to the lab for testing. Then a tiny piece of titanium in the shape of a microscopic pigtail is inserted into your breast to tag the lump, and to be with you forevermore. Your boob is bruised. Then you wait to hear if you have cancer.
No one talks about this. Most stop after the electromagnetic radiation.
In an attempt to explain homeostasis, I remember my sixth grade science teacher said a system will desperately try to maintain stability, no matter the cost. It knows no other path. If you stop and think, it’s quite incredible—whether a human body, the plant earth, or a broken hollandaise—forces react involuntarily to protect against stimuli that threaten to disturb the balance.
The system doesn’t always succeed. But the internal fight is there. So while I await biopsy results, I choose to distract myself by mashing some fruit and oats into squares, operating within the bounds of snack homeostasis.
The coordinated alliance of figs, cherries, pecans, seeds, and grain melds with maple and honey. Meanwhile, the added stick of butter threatens to make granola bars about as non-righteous as they can get; yet, also ensures equilibrium among the other ingredients. It is browned until it becomes nutty and additionally harmonious.
I was worried the cacao would muck up the fruit and oat flavor. That the nibs would become overpowering, an indolent shroud for the more virtuous bits. But everything binds into something reminiscent of a seven-layer bar, with the malleable properties of a product put forth by the Quaker Oats man.
The result is glorious.
We tend to walk through life thinking in concrete terms. Things are either healthy, or not. Good or bad. Yet, we are often standing on tectonic plates.
The best we can do is be open, and malleable, and have faith in the forces that bring us back to homeostasis. And in those that bring us granola bars.
Fruit and Nut Granola Bars with Cacao and Sea Salt
Inspired by Nigel Slater from Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard
110 grams (1 stick) salted butter (includes butter to grease the pan)
70 grams (about ½ cup) dried whole figs
60 grams (about ½ cup) pecan halves
40 grams (about ¼ cup) dried sour cherries
30 grams (about ¼ cup) sunflower seeds
180 grams (about 1¼ cups) rolled oats
20 grams (about ¼ cup) shredded unsweetened coconut
35 grams (about ⅓ cup) almond meal
50 milliliters (about 3½ tbsp) honey
50 milliliters (about 3½ tbsp) maple syrup (grade B preferable)
90 grams (about a scant ½ cup) superfine sugar (see note)
15 grams (about 2 tbsp) cacao nibs (not chocolate covered)
heaping ⅛ tsp fleur de sel or other finishing sea salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square pan (I used a 11 x 7). Remove the fig stems and quarter the figs. In a food processor, finely chop the figs, pecans, cherries, and sunflower seeds until they hold together when pressed. (This can also be done by hand; the finer you chop the ingredients the better the bars will hold together.) Place in a large bowl and mix in the oats, coconut, and almond meal.
In a large saucepan, melt the remaining butter on medium heat until it turns a deep golden brown and starts to give off nutty aromas; stir in the honey, syrup, and superfine sugar. When the mixture comes to a rolling boil, add in the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly; stir in the cacao nibs.
Tip the mixture into the prepared pan and press it down firmly. Scatter the salt evenly on top. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. As it cooks, the edges should start to slightly puff up. It is done when the rim is golden and the middle puffs up to meet the edges. As the mixture cools, press it down again. When the mixture is still warm, but cool enough to easily handle, cut into 12 bars.
Let cool completely and then store in an airtight container for 5 days (or freeze).
Makes 12 bars
-If you can’t find unsweetened coconut, you can use 200 grams (about 1⅓ cups) oats instead.
-If you don’t have superfine sugar, whirl regular granulated sugar in a food processor. It’ll take about ¾ cup to make the amount of superfine sugar that you’ll need for this recipe (you may have just a little bit extra).
-If you use a 11 x 7 pan it may need a little more time to bake (closer to 30 minutes), whereas a 9-inch square pan will require a little less time.