Morning or Afternoon Tea, Super Easy, Sweet

Six Dollar Man / Peanut Butter, Chocolate & Shortbread Blondies

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Plato

I met a guy at the petrol station this morning. Dark haired, Mediterranean heritage, wiry body. He jittered constantly, as those on large doses of speed do; his hands, eyes, legs and speech all falling over each other for attention.

He was standing in front of me in the queue to pay, quibbling over the cost of cigarettes and repeatedly asking about newspapers.

“How much are the cigarettes?… 25 dollars? But I’ve only got 23!… I’ll give you 23 for the cigarettes and the newspaper. Although I need two newspapers don’t I? What if I miss some news?… What?… No! I said I’d give you 23! I don’t have 29, I only have 23!… But I need them… Nonononononono, I need them.”

Peanut Butter, Chocolate & Shortbread Blondies - TIK

With four people behind me and the guy becoming increasingly agitated, I lean forwards and offer to add another 6 dollars onto my petrol.

The attendant looks relieved and immediately takes my card. The speeding guy spins around and peers closely at me, “Thanks mate. Thanks so much. I wouldn’t normally accept but I got to get them, see? I’m on my way to my parole officer. Just out of jail. Yup, just last week out of jail.”

I smile at him and start typing in my pin as he peers a little closer, “Hey mate, I know you, don’t I? Yes! I never forget a face! I know you from somewhere! Where is it?”

Peanut Butter Chocolate & Shortbread Blondies - TIK

I finish paying and look over at him. He looks vaguely familiar, but in the way that all strangers who insist they know you look vaguely familiar, “Maybe,” I say, “are you local?”

“Nope.” he jitters, “Nopenopenope. Not me. Just out of prison. Just out. Been in a long time this time. Ha! Got out though, yes I did! Hey! Are you on the prison board?”

“No.” I smile, watching the index and middle fingers of his left hand as they tap a furious, syncopated rhythm on his thigh, “When did you go in though? May be we knew each other before?”

He suddenly rears up on his toes and squeals in excitement, “Yes! Yesyes! I knew I knew you! You know Dave and Linda! And plumber Ron! You! I know you!”

Peanut Butter chocolate and shortbread blondes - TIK

And it hits me who he is. Eight years ago I was living with a woman called Linda, who was friends with a guy called Dave. We spent a bit of time together and he had a friend called Frank who would occasionally come along. Dave was worried about Frank because he was drinking too much and had just started taking drugs. Dave said that Frank was a guy who couldn’t help how much he drank once he started and became nasty after too many beers. Frank’s job as a high powered executive in an advertising firm was under threat because he’d attacked a client when drunk, and his wife was threatening to leave.

Eight years later, this man standing in front of me; just out of jail, off his head on speed at 10 in the morning, without enough money to buy cigarettes, was practically unrecognisable from the successful family man I’d been introduced to so many years previously.

“Ah!” he shouts, pointing at the road, “My bus’s here! Gotta go see my parole officer! Yupyup, gotta go! Good to see you mate! I never forget a face!”

And he runs down the road, cigarettes firmly clasped in one hand, the other waving frantically at the bus headed away from him, his flannel shirt ripped from armpit to stomach, his trousers held up by string.

Peanut Butter, Chocolate & Shortbread Blondies - TIK

I climbed slowly into my car, all worries and plans about my life temporarily stilled. And sent out a quiet word to whichever powers in the universe save us from the worst of ourselves, asking them to show him as much love as they could spare this day.

And then I came home and slowly made this bake. I’d planned something complex and a bit flamboyant this week. But in the end my heart needed simple and loving. Something to still the ache for those who haven’t managed to make it through this day without a painkiller for their soul. Something that reminds me of where I came from — and of where I am.

Enjoy.

Print this recipe

  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 225g peanut butter (I’ve used both crunchy and smooth in this recipe and either work well)
  • 260g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 185g plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 100g great quality white chocolate, chopped roughly into small pieces (today I used Green & Blacks. Dark or milk chocolate also work well)
  • 100g shortbread, roughly broken into chunks slightly bigger than the chocolate, about the size of a fingertip

Preheat the oven to 170˚C / 325˚F

Grease a 20 x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) square cake tin and line with baking paper

In a large bowl, cream the butter and peanut butter together until very soft. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla and continue to beat until completely incorporated

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and gently fold into the peanut butter mix until just combined

Separate half the mix into another bowl and carefully stir in the shortbread

Stir the chocolate into the remaining half

Spoon the shortbread mix into the prepared tin and spread right to the edges before adding the chocolate mix on top and smoothing with a palette knife

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown and almost firm in the centre (always err on the side of caution here, slightly underdone is gorgeously fudgy and definitely preferable to overdone)

Allow to cool in the tin, before removing and cutting into squares

Eat. Smile. Repeat.

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70 thoughts on “Six Dollar Man / Peanut Butter, Chocolate & Shortbread Blondies

    • Definitely, it was pretty heartbreaking to see such a change in just a few short years. He’s a nice guy as well, you know? Not that it should ever have to happen to anyone, but it really hit me hard seeing him like that. Goodness! I never have any chocolate left in my pantry, I think you should use it immediately! Enjoy. xx

      Liked by 2 people

      • My husband took me to his hometown years ago and stopped at a gas station in a bad part of town. He locked the doors and told me to stay in the car. When he came out, a young man approached him, scratching his arm. My husband gave him a few bucks which is what he always does when a bum approaches him, but he also stopped to talk to him, and even though we’d just started dating, I saw a look in his face. When he came back to the car, he told me that was his boy from high school, the qb on his team, set to do big things. Fast forward five years to the gas station.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. What a heartbreaking story! Too many good people are lost in addiction today. Too many promising lives broken. I know, my son is one. Thank you for your kindness to him. Too many are treated with disdain.

    I was drawn to your post because of the yummy looking blondies and had not expected this. but I’m glad I came. I do with the recipe came in cups and tablespoon. I suppose there some place to translate the grams. Do you know of a site where I can do that? I’d really like to try these.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your thoughts and for extending kindness to a man that most might push aside, mentally or physically! We just talked this morning in our Bible class about judgement and how to cast judgement on another before knowing their story is to deny their humanity – to merely treat them as a problem to get around to get on with your day. Thank you for pausing long enough to see his humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that although my path is different to yours, we’ve reached the same conclusions about how we’d like to treat others. I don’t know if you’ve seen the Humans of New York page? It’s the best daily reminder for me about the humanity in all of us. I just want to follow that HONY guy around and bask in the sunlight of human spirit!

      Making your corn chowder for dinner tonight – pretty excited!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow, its a small world babe. I don’t know if I remember this guy. Was he friends with Dave? I love that I still have contact with you, vague though it is. Lotsa lurve to you from us xxxzxzx

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  4. I ask myself if I would have stopped to talk and help the man. I think I would, but I can only conjecture. I do think that we, writers, have a deep interest in the “back stories” of all people. Very moving post.

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    • I’ve always got a soft spot for drug addicts and alcoholics and mostly try to make time to speak with them if they want. But the truth is I was pushing to pay for my petrol so I could get to my friend’s house! An amazing coincidence that such a conversation came from my self-interested gesture. I honestly believe I was the lucky one to have such a profound encounter with him. I’m sure he doesn’t remember it at all. Thanks for the lovely comment.

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  5. The pictures puzzled me until I got to the end. It reminds me that while we have much, others have much less, and that sweet gestures leave a longer lasting memory than sweet tastes.
    Many of us are just a wrong turn away from a bad neighbourhood.

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  6. What a great read! So well written and touching. I’m not even awake yet, so I’m holding open my eyes with clothes pins over here- and this was the perfect humbling start to the day!

    Perspective!

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  7. What a good story! And the recipe sounds delicious! Back in the day when I could handle sugar (sort of) I’d have headed straight to the kitchen to make them.
    After the first 1,000 Twelve Step meetings one knows that any day now Frank could be telling his story to an enthralled circle of listeners looking for some hope, and he’ll say “That was the year I got out of prison. Wow, that was a rough time. But then someone in line gave me the money to make my parole visit…” then after hearing all that experience strength and hope about how he turned his life around, three people will come up and ask him to be their sponsor, and they can close the meeting and refill the coffee pot and have a pan of blondies, because quite a few Steppers bring treats to the meetings. Transformation does keep happening.
    Thank you for the heartwarming post! Mary

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    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment Mary, I agree absolutely and can only hope that recovery sits somewhere in his future. Just imagine, if everyone who could use a meeting went they’d probably be filling stadiums with recovery meetings… What a thought…

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  8. Great story – so kind of you to help out and it was clearly meant to be. Crazy co-incidence. I can’t help but hope that somehow life picks up for him and todays little act of generosity is the start of it for him.
    I was actually drawn to your post by the recipe which looks amazing and I cannot wait to try it out but loved the whole piece. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Thanks so much Kellie, it really was one of those Twilight Zone coincidences. I’ve been thinking of him since then (especially with having written about him) and just keep hoping he finds ease. I hope you enjoy making the blondies!

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  9. Yuri says:

    Amazing read. I really hope life starts to get better for him and all others like him. Thank you for not judging him and taking the time to actually talk with him! Sometimes a small action like that can lead to big changes. 🙂

    I also love that recipe. Yum, looks delicious!

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  11. Not exactly a lovely story, but definitely a poignant one. So many people from our past cant turn up unexpectedly when we least expect it. It was such a blessing that you were the one who turned up when he needed you and that you were the type of person to act as you did. Far too often people who have fallen prey to addiction are avoided and shunned by all and sundry. Sometimes it is help with some simple need that can make their day or week without anyone even realizing what a difference it makes in that person’s life. Thank you for the story and the fine example of benevolence.

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