What’re you eating?

I have a confession to make. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I think you need to know.

You know that kid who refuses to eat anything but foods that are white, or fried, or whatever? I was one of those kids. Except worse. I refused to eat tomatoes. Wintermelon. Mushrooms. Chives. Tapioca pearls. Peanut butter. Ketchup and other condiments. Any sort of pepper. Cheese (especially American). Fried or poached eggs. Anything but regular chips. Hawaiian pizza. BREAD.

I know, I was a weird kid. I was the girl who wouldn’t eat the green eggs after reading “Green Eggs and Ham”. At a barbeque, I’d eat the sausage of a hot dog plain and leave the dog. I would drink the watermelon smoothie and leave the tapioca pearls in my drink. I would run away from pizza with toppings, even if they’d been picked off. A PB&J sandwich was unfathomable to me. At Asian bakeries, as my family loaded up on pastries, I’d get a sausage bun, eat the sausage, and then hand off the bun. Seeing my friend eat a raw bell pepper flabbergasted me. My mother punished me one time by making me eat a piece of toast.

I think, looking back on it now, that what I hated was really strong flavors and mushy foods. I would smell something new, and if I thought it smelled funny, I wouldn’t touch it. I also held foods in my mouth for a long time, tasting them. (I sucked on gummy bears and M&Ms.) So the idea of something going mushy and soft in my mouth was gross. That took soft breads off the plate, as well as mushrooms and tapioca pearls and wintermelon. My diet was very meat-heavy (I once finished an entire packet of 20 to 25 xiao long bao by myself, and could easily polish off a steak on my own), and starch came in the form of rice. I also ate a ton of fruit.

My diet, thank goodness, is no longer so wacky. In fact, it’s almost flipped. I still don’t like flavored chips. Or ballpark condiments. For those, though, I won’t apologize. (I mean, seriously, what’s wrong with that weirdly bright yellow mustard??) But I love mushrooms, and eggs with runny yolks. I had a period where I went pb-crazy last year, and I get a little overly excited at the thought of pastries of all kinds. I’m also not as into meat, and crusty and grain-packed breads are highly appreciated.

From top: Speculoos, peanut butter, Chocolate Speculoos, Nutella

Imagine just how horrid my France trip would have been if I weren’t eating bread. Or cheese. Oh goodness. As it is, though, I went ready to experience new foods, and luckily met people who wanted to do the same thing. I mean, seriously, I had a bowl of different cow innards in Italy, and a pork foot salad in Lyon.

One of the awesome things we discovered was speculoos. Ohhh lordy. I know I’m late on the biscoff spread bandwagon. When I saw “cookie butter” at Trader Joe’s I was so dumbfounded as to why someone would make a spread out of biscuits. As if the biscuits weren’t unhealthy enough. What I didn’t realize, though, was just how AWESOME those spices would be in a spread. My friends and I went through jars of the stuff, excitedly buying the crunchy and chocolate versions. We would chide each other for eating it off the spoon, then lick our fingers. We told our friends back home about this magical spread that changed lives. We dedicated a night to spreads of all kinds (Speculoos, Nutella, Ovaltine, peanut butter, Banania, etc) just to have an excuse to eat more Speculoos.

The four of us on our spread night. Note the speculoos jars on the table.

They say that, along with olfactory memories, food memories are some of the strongest and everlasting. That’s why we crave chicken noodle soup when we’re sick. I think of my friends when I see food. Every time I see something Speculoos-related or flan-like, I think of my friend Raissa. When I see Nutella, almond croissants, or lemon tarts, I think of Diana. When I see peanut butter or Asian food, I think of Jiseon. In honor of my friends and our respective friends, I wanted to make four flavors of pound cake or muffins. I made it, then ate a few before realizing that the flour had gone bad. So I redid it. But in redoing it, I only used chocolate speculoos. The marvelous speculoos spice taste combined with the best part of Nutella, swirled into a buttery pound cake. Mmm, delish. I think I could have swirled in even more of the spread, but the flavor is good enough that you savor the bites with the swirled batter. The recipe I used was originally for an orange  pound cake, so I think I could have cut back on the butter a bit to let the flavor of the speculoos come through more, or added some more spices into the batter to back up the spread. But all-in-all, it was awesome.

I’m really just glad that I eat breads now, or else I’m not sure if I would have eaten the muffins, and I wouldn’t know what to spread my Speculoos on in the morning. Although I guess the latter’s not REALLY a problem…spoon-to-mouth, anyone?

Spread-Swirled Pound Cake

adapted from UseRealButter

1 tbsp butter for greasing the pan
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp + pinch salt
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup Speculoos (or other spread)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Set the rack in the center of the oven. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan with the extra butter, line the pan with parchment, then butter the parchment paper. Mix the flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a medium bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium high until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat the eggs in one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks curdled, it’s fine. With the mixer on low, add a third of the flour, then add half of 3/4 cup of milk, then add another third of the flour, then the rest of the 3/4 cup of milk, and finish with the remaining third of the flour. Warm up your spread of choice in the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds. Mix in 1/3 of the batter. Pour the spread batter into the bottom of the pan , then alternate with the plain batter. Swirl lightly with a knife.e top. Bake 45 minutes to an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool the cake in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the sides and turn the cake out onto the rack. Let the cake cool completely (about 2 hours). Serves 8.

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