Crapalachia & Apricot, Ginger and Date Breakfast Bars
“Crapalachia.” It’s the sort of nickname you’d give to a hard-scrabble place as you drive past it on the highway, bemoaning its lack of 3G coverage and frowning derisively at its high concentration of fast-food chicken joints. This is the West Virginia of Scott McClanahan’s boyhood. The book’s full title, Crapalachia: A Biography of A Place, only begins to explain how inextricable McClanahan’s formative years are from the ashen, rocky mountains of a very specific geographic place.
There are characters, certainly. There is Grandma Ruby, McClanahan’s guardian, who washes and reuses Styrofoam plates and never arrives at a funeral without her camera. There is Bill, who receives an email from God (firstname.lastname@example.org) and who takes photos of himself shirtless and flexing. Most of all, there is Uncle Nathan, who has cerebral palsy and falls in love with his home health aide. Singular as these people are, they are only like the bits of dirt or crackly scrub bushes that cover West Virginia’s craggy surface. The place. The place is what stays.
McClanahan doesn’t write with detachment, or with years’ worth of perspective. He writes with all the confusion, the yearning and the embarrassment of an adolescence spent in a shitty, passed-over place. He pleads with the reader—“I WILL forever be reaching for you. PLEASE keep reading for me. Please.”—like we are a rescue rope down a coal mine shaft.
Crapalachia being a biography of place, the reader submits to McClanahan’s inky rendering of it. With such a tender and wounded guide—who is no less powerful for being so—it is impossible not to. There is no sense in teasing true from untrue or fiction from non-fiction, when at the end of a day, a book, a life, there is left only place and the unstoppable motion of time.
“The theme of this book is a sound,” McClanahan writes. “It goes like this: tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. It’s the sound you’re hearing now, and it’s one of the saddest sounds in the world.”
McClanahan being only 35, we hopefully have plenty more time with him.
The West Virginia of Crapalachia is rocky and dense. Its inhabitants are stuck together by circumstance and geography, bound to each other and to place. These breakfast bars are likewise a bit sticky and crunchy, but also simple and just slightly sweet.
You can customize this recipe to suit your tastes as long as you stick to the ratio of one part nuts to one part dried fruit and one part dates. I imagine these could taste great with the inclusion of toasted coconut, chocolate chips or dried cherries.
APRICOT, GINGER AND DATE BREAKFAST BARS
- 1 cup almonds
- 1 cup pitted dried dates
- 1 cup dried apricot
- 1oz crystallized ginger
- 1/2 tablespoon agave nectar
To roast almonds (omit this step if raw is preferred), place them on a baking sheet and roast at 350ºF for 10 minutes or until fragrant.
Combine almonds, dates, ginger and apricots in a food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Process them continually for another 30 seconds to 1 minute while drizzling in the agave nectar. When a ball forms, stop the food processor.
Remove the ball from the bowl and spread it on a piece of wax paper. Form it into a disc about 1 inch thick.
Refrigerate the disc for at least an hour or overnight. Cut into squares. If stored in an airtight container, the bars will last a few weeks.
Source: Amazon pre-order (it just came out in mid-March) but it should be in bookstores now too!
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