One night not long ago, I was surfing the World Wide Interweb, minding my own business, when two worlds collided. I suppose that sounds pretty dramatic; it was a little more subdued than that. This collision was more like a crazy connection between past and future, domestic and international. This was a collision of sprinkles.
Sprinkles don’t play a prominent role in my life. And to be clear, I’m not talking about light precipitation falling from the heavens. I’m talking about the colorful little edible beads that kids (of all ages, as you will soon see) tend to distribute on top of their cupcakes, ice cream, and more.
My most recent meeting with a sprinkle was the weekend before Daughter’s birthday when her long-lost friend Bama Buddy came for the weekend. (Bama Buddy is long-lost if you consider that she now lives over an hour away; not so much, though, since she joins our family via FaceTime most nights of the week.) Bama Buddy brought homemade cupcakes to the party, all but a few topped with sprinkles. I ate one or two, and enjoyed them, but I must confess: aside from a dash of color and a little texture, they didn’t add a tremendous amount to the cupcakes.
I also see lots of sprinkles on my Instagram feed. I follow my friend The Biscuit Lady; she bakes a sprinkles-laden biscuit that has got to be The Biscuit Shop’s best-seller. I’m more of a “what’s the new flavor this month” kind of a customer, but I have had my share of the sprinkley ones, too.
There is a reason I don’t interact too often with sprinkles, and it can be traced to a taste memory from the distant past. Somewhere along life’s journey, I must have met a batch of sprinkles that tasted like coconut. And that was the end of that. No more sprinkles for me. But in my old age I have ventured out again and found that my taste memory might be somewhat distorted.
What’s in ‘em, anyway? As you might suspect, they are mostly sugar. Throw in a little corn syrup, corn starch, food grade wax, artificial coloring and flavoring – and voila, a sprinkle is born. The chocolate ones? They have cocoa powder. No coconut to be found, unless that is one of the artificial flavors. I’m sure it comes as a great relief to know that no unicorns are harmed in the making of this rainbow-colored topping. It’s just a highly processed food that magically attracts the attention of small children when atop a donut, cake, or fro-yo.
That’s the back story – now let’s regroup and get back to the collision.
Sometimes I know why things pop up in my email, and other times it’s a mystery. Why I get a regular update from Good Housekeeping magazine is a mystery. No doubt I clicked on a recipe or bought a subscription to another magazine published by the same house. Either way, they send me mail. I clicked on a story I wanted to read, and off to the side (this is how they get you) there was a teaser for another article entitled, “It’s Totally Normal to Eat Sprinkles for Breakfast.” I took the bait.
Of course, around these parts that headline wouldn’t really be much of a shocker. See aforementioned reference to the sprinkles biscuit. See aforementioned reference to sprinkle-topped donuts. Sprinkles are not that uncommon for breakfast if you think about it.
But it wasn’t biscuits and donuts that triggered the memory in my brain, and in my taste buds. It was Fairy Bread.
When I was first introduced to this magical meal, our Dutch friends didn’t call it that. In fact, I don’t remember what they called it. We were invited for “breakfast for dinner” one night when we both lived in a kingdom far, far away. They told us ahead of time that it would be a simple meal: essentially just jam and bread. But when we sat down to eat, there was a box of chocolate sprinkles on the table. I was fascinated. What would these Netherlanders do with these sprinkles? And who even has an entire box (at least a liter in volume) of sprinkles, anyway? Don’t they usually come in little jars? It’s safe to say I was stupefied. The funny thing was that they were equally surprised that we didn’t know what to do with them – at least at the breakfast table.
It was nothing too fancy. They start with toast, slather some kind of spread on it (butter, nut butter, cookie butter, Nutella, etc.), then pour on the hagelslag. I didn’t learn that word till recently (they spoke English – we didn’t speak Dutch), but that’s what they would have called it: hagelslag is a Dutch word for sprinkles. Their box was chocolate-flavored, but a quick search on Instagram of #hagelslag will reveal all kinds of variations on that theme. In fact, if you like sprinkles at all, that search will set your mouth to watering.
The Fairy Bread term is an Australian thing. Same idea, different continent. Oddly enough, our Australian neighbors in that same far away kingdom never mentioned it. Or maybe they just didn’t invite us to breakfast.
Lest I forget, I should say that a heavy layer of chocolate sprinkles on buttered toast is actually quite good. It’s even better with a base layer of Biscoff spread (see above). Call it fairy bread or hagelslag, it’s a delicious part of breakfast for dinner. At least it should be.
What’s your favorite way to eat hagelslag?