My birthday is next week, and I’m finding myself thinking back to my last few. On the day I turned 21, I caught an early morning Greyhound bus from New York to New London, Connecticut, the town where I went to college, to catch a ride with a bunch of friends up to Maine. I will never forget that whole week in Vinalhaven, a tiny island reachable only by a ferry from Rockland. One evening, sitting around a raging campfire, wrapped in blankets, our hair and clothes quickly absorbing the heavy smell of smoke, we played a game and giggled until the woods around us were fully dark and quiet. The island is a place of immense physical beauty and grand summer sunsets, but I was more enchanted with the population of year-round residents and the unbreakable sense of community (the population is around 1200).
I had the pleasure of sharing an outdoor meal with one Vinalhaven family (which preceded the campfire), and at the meal’s end, a sheet of freshly-made “bark” was brought out. I had never heard of such a thing, but jumped at the chance to try what was clearly a tradition. I had already been convinced to have my first lobster that week, mere hours after being caught, and couldn’t imagine that anything could be more “Vinalhaven” than that. The bark was a perfect mixture of salty and sweet, and took all of 15 minutes beginning to end.
This is my version, although I imagine it won’t ever taste as good as it did in Vinalhaven. It is particularly great around a campfire or on camping trips. And feel free to add any other additional toppings-anything works.
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 box saltines, or other salty square crackers
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup chocolate chips(I used a mixture of white chocolate and semi-sweet)
- 1/3 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
1. Line the bottom of a cookie sheet (with sides) with aluminum foil. Then line that with the crackers, in a flat grid pattern so that they cover as much space as possible but are all touching.
2. In a pan, melt the butter and brown sugar, stirring frequently, until it's all melted, about 5 minutes. Then stir in the vanilla extract.
3. Pour the butter and sugar mixture over the crackers. Bake at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes.
4. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over top. Put the sheet briefly back into the oven to melt the chocolate a little. Take out and sprinkle almonds and coconut evenly over the chocolate. Refrigerate 1 1/2 hours. Break into pieces and enjoy.