Teenagers are not always breakfast-loving creatures. Weekday mornings are often chaotic, so a sit-down, well-balanced, post-sleep meal featuring foods from every level of the nutrition pyramid isn’t likely to happen. From about age 15 on, getting Zach to eat breakfast before school became a challenge. Weekends were a different story. He would devour pancakes with lots of syrup and practically inhale bowls of colorful fruit. We could count on him eating like Cookie Monster on vacations as well. Maybe the extra sleep fostered hunger.
Recently, we went to Lake Tahoe on a vacation. We chose a hotel with a full kitchen so we could fill our boy’s belly sufficiently each morning before exploring the surrounding Sierra. Day one: Zach slept in, as predicted. We made pancakes, eggs, and bacon. We sliced fruit. I had homemade juice in the fridge. Zach woke up, sat at the table, and did not eat. Definitely not as predicted. Day two: Zach slept in. We made bacon (lots of it), sprinkled sugar on the fruit, and put some gummies on the table. Zach woke up, sat at the table, and did not eat. Hmmph. Day three: Zach slept in. I ate eggs and bacon and fruit and drank my homemade juice. Robert ate his Kashi with rice milk and drank coffee. Zach woke up. He sat at the table. He stared at our food. We offered him bites. He put his head down. He did not eat.
Armed with plenty of snacks for the soon-to-be hypoglycemic kid, we headed out for another day of vacation fun. It was day three when we decided to walk around historic Genoa. Our hotel was in Genoa, so after a quick stroll through the quaint town, we planned to drive up and over the Kingsbury Grade to our favorite lake.
Robert, being the coffee lover he is, decided to duck into the bakery he spotted near the main intersection of town. Bakeries are usually torture for a gluten free person, so I stayed outside with Zach, who, if he spotted frosting-glazed cookies in the glass case, would go absolutely nuts if he couldn’t have one. Robert makes a habit of looking out for “safe” treats for us, so when he was inside the shop for a longggg time, I knew there must be something going on. Minutes later, he exited with coffee in one hand and a few white pastry bags in the other. The patio provided a wrought iron table in the shade where one bag revealed delicious-looking pignolo cookies. Zach’s eyes grew saucer-like, and like a magic trick, those pignolos disappeared. The only evidence they existed were some scattered pine nuts on the ground.
The next white bag contained not one, not two, not three, but four macarons. These weren’t macaroons, as in haystack-like, coconutty cookies. These were the true French style macarons with the perfectly rounded outer shells in pastel hues delicately encasing a creamy layer of goodness. I raised an eyebrow to Robert who announced that they were indeed gluten free and dairy free. The “creamy” center was actually fruit jam.
This little bakery in the heart of little Genoa made almond flour macarons with the traditional buttercream filling as well as macarons with a dairy-free jam filling in flavors like fig, lemon, apricot, and raspberry. Heaven! If you thought the pine nut cookies disappeared in the blink of an eye…
Hungry Boy, with traces of pink crumbs on his lips, signed More. Back to the bakery Robert marched, returning with another bag of macarons. I think the second bag took 3.7 seconds to empty.
The next morning, after “breakfast” in the room, we returned to the bakery. We all went in and Zach hawk-eyed the macarons on a plate in the glass case. He has cookie radar. He used his communication device to ask for “macarons please.” I believe we purchased eight as well as two cups of coffee and two pignolo cookies and a scone (full of wheat flour for the non GF member of the family). I had one macaron. And Macaron Monster had all the rest.
You can guess where this is going. The next morning, and the morning after that, and every remaining morning of the vacation, we’d rise, get dressed, and head to the little bake shop. They knew us. A bag of macarons with fruit filling, two pignolos, a scone, a regular coffee and a decaf. Oh, and a Pelligrino for the boy. We had Zach using a credit card and signing his name for his purchase. That little wrought iron table became our table. The birds in Genoa probably spotted us coming and perched in the trees above the patio knowing they’d get to feast on pine nuts and macaron crumbs all week!
The second-to-last day of the trip, we arrived at the bake shop later than usual. I had noticed a good number of cars in town as we arrived; not a good sign. Tourists need sustenance. I had a queasy feeling as we walked over the grassy area past the patio toward the screen door. It was super quiet inside. And the glass case was super bare. Zach immediately pointed and requested his macs. A woman came over and announced that they sold out of the fruit-filled macarons. The only ones Zach could have. Disaster!!!
We asked for all the pignolos hoping that would satisfy the Macaron Monster that day. Not realizing that the macarons remaining on the plate in the case contained buttercream, Zach repeatedly pointed to them and vocalized. An explanation of the ingredients and how they would hurt his belly was not sufficient. He was determined to have his macarons.
The woman behind the counter, in her attempt to help the customer, saw him pointing at the platter and apparently didn’t hear us telling him the buttercream would hurt his belly. Pleasantly, she said, “Do you want those cocoa macarons?” Zach furiously nodded yes. We had to intervene as she selected some to toss in the white bag.
“Nooooo! Wait!! We can’t…please don’t…he can’t have that…no milk…” the words sputtered out like a car backfiring.
“OH! Okay…sorry about that…” said the lady as she replaced the cocoa macs.
In a Harry Houdini maneuver, Zach silently, instantly unwrapped his arm from my arm. His body floated around Robert with the deftness of a star quarterback. He instinctively knew the path to get himself around the glass case and behind the counter. My mouth moved but my feet did not.
“Z A A A A A A A C H!!!!!!!!!!!! STAHHHHP!” (It was a fast and furious moment but felt like slow motion at the same time).
I pushed Robert’s arm in an attempt to get him to stop Zach. I wanted to scale the glass case in Spiderman fashion, but that would’ve resulted in me sprawled out on the floor dead-bug-style. At that moment, we were both frozen as we watched Zach, on the employee’s side of the counter, reach his arm inside the case for the cocoa macarons. I had visions of the woman karate-chopping his arm. Of the platter falling and breaking. Of macarons rolling everywhere like little wheels spun off a tiny car. Of scones and bear claws and eclairs smashed and oozing. Of Zach covered in powdered sugar with traces of cocoa bits on his face. Of the Genoa police arresting the blond-haired, blue-eyed macaron bandit.
Buuuuut, none of that happened. In fact, Zach did not want the cocoa macarons.
After he mad-dashed it to the woman’s side, he came to a screeching halt and quite carefully straightened each macaron she replaced on the plate. Apparently, his OCD sensibilities were offended by her haphazard replacement of the sweet, beige and white circles. After all, the lime green and lemon yellow cousins of the cocoas were sitting in neat little rows! The cocoas deserved the same respect!
I could not remove my gaze from Zach’s fingers as he gently lined up the treats he could not have. I held my breath. The woman – bless her heart – stood calmly by his side and pretty much tolerated him doing this. Ooooh, okay there…yes…I see…you want those straightened up…alright…
I imagine she was as startled as I was mortified by what we just witnessed, but she didn’t freak out or yell or stop him. “The customer is always right” was perhaps streaming across her brain. Thank goodness the shop was empty save for the four of us. We offered to pay for those macs, but she kindly told us it was not necessary. Maybe she realized we were weeklong, faithful customers and decided not to make an issue of this. I figured she probably confiscated the tainted goods after we left.
Robert did escort Zach from behind the counter after this bakery blitz. We decided to forego our wrought iron table that day and take the goods to go. No point in risking a second foray. The back seat was full of pine nuts, but who the heck cared at that point?? I didn’t even get my decaf, but I felt fine with that trade-off. Actually, a morning shot of whiskey would’ve been nice.
On the last day of our trip, we had a decision to make. The car was loaded with luggage, beach toys, souvenirs. If I made breakfast for Zach, he wouldn’t eat it. If we didn’t go to the bakery, he’d be hungry and upset. If we did go, we were taking the chance of a repeat performance. Once he’s figured something out, he’s figured something out. The three-minute jaunt from the hotel to the bake shop gave us time to plan. Knowing his nervousness over leaving luggage behind, I told him that he and I would wait in the car with the bags while Dad went in to get treats. Worked like a charm. He kept his eyes fixed on that screen door the whole time. And when the white bags were passed to him in the back seat, it was like feeding a crocodile his raw chicken. Moments later, the white bags were returned to me, scrunched up into little golf ball sized circles. I turned around. My Macaron Monster sat amidst the Samsonites with two puffed-out cheeks and traces of fruit jelly on his lips. Ohhh the contentment.
So my next mission? Getting the recipe for GF DF pignolos and fruit jelly macarons and perfecting the art of baking them. I may have to purchase a freezer in which to keep the goods, because at the rate of two cookies and eight macarons per day, seven days a week, I’ll need the inventory of a bakery!
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Keri, I can see this scene, especially the next to last day, playing out many times. Just different objects, like my suitcase or my shaving kit. You are a great interpreter of what living with autism is all about. I loved this one!!!!
This is really an interesting and cute story. I can just imagine each day, your going to the bakery, and how excited Zack would’ve been!
Keri this one is sooo cute!!! I saw Zach doing it all ! So thankful that the bakery lady was a cool lady — 👍 . Teaching/ description etc with humor !! Wonderful!!!