Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Famous Wafers and Whipped Cream

Like a lot of people, I have childhood memories of certain foods and dishes that immediately evoke a sense of family. One of these is a dessert made with a relatively obscure Nabisco product styled Famous Chocolate Wafers. They are thin, lightly sweetened (which makes them unusual right there), crisp chocolate wafers (about 2.5 inches in diameter) that are marketed in boxes of 40 wafers each. This product has been around for at least 60 years and has remained unchanged in all that time.

Last night I arrived in the Chicago area for the start of a five days of FIC meetings. While the meetings will all take place at the north side facilities of Jesus People USA (an evangelical Christian group that focuses on the spiritual inspiration found in Jesus' words and acts), Ma'ikwe and I stayed the first night with my sister and brother-in-law, Alison & Dan Cooke in southwestern suburb of La Grange. For dessert last night Al offered up a batch of Famous Wafers and Whipped Cream. Yum!

a madeleine was for Proust, a serving of Famous Wafers and Whipped Cream is for me—instantly bringing up images of my mother and family celebrations of summers long ago.

While this Schaub tradition goes back as far as I can remember, if you Googled it, the recipe would most commonly be classified as a "refrigerator cake." Simply enough, you trowel about 1/4-inch or so of whipped cream between wafers until you assemble a log that's about 12 inches long. After parging all the outer edges with additional whipped cream, you wrap the whole in waxed paper and refrigerate it overnight. The moisture in the whipped cream seeps into the wafers, rendering them soft and gooey. When unwrapped the next day, the log is sliced thinly along the diagonal, resulting in zebra-striped oblongs that are sinfully delicious—that is, they're delicious if you like sugar, chocolate, and butterfat. Duh.

The trick to this dessert is not in the execution, which is relatively straight forward—it's in finding Famous Wafers in a grocery store. Few carry this old-time Nabisco offering, and even if they're in the store, they're generally not found in the cookie section. For some reason, they're most commonly hanging out amongst the ice cream toppings.

Last night, over pre-dinner Manhattans (a penchant for which has become a mini-family tradition for him and me) my brother-in-law Dan waved in my direction by confessing that he regularly reads this blog. Who knew? He works for a company that manages commercial property and said he had little trouble applying my musings about cooperative group dynamics to corporate settings—which I liked hearing. (After all, if you're trying to save the world, you need broad application.)

He further confessed that he aspired to see his name appear in some future blog entry. He reasoned that bribing me with the right dessert should do the trick, and he was right!

Hey Dan, this blog's for you! (And if you want to try working me over with plum pudding and hard sauce at some future dinner, I promise a second coming.) With the right dessert, you too can be an (almost) Famous Waver. We could make it a new family tradition.

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