I've been reading Sue Elvis' The Angels of Abbey Creek to the children, on and off, since just before Christmas. It is a fictional story following a large, Catholic, homeschooling (or homeschool-like) family through the course of one year of their lives in Australia. Each chapter is a short story, that can stand alone, or join together with the others as part of the larger narrative, making it perfect for a now and then kind of family read-a-loud.
The writing is simple enough for emerging readers to read themselves, with short easy sentences. The stories are charming however, and entertaining, and surprising enough to hold the interest of older listeners, too.
As we are not Catholic, or from Australia, each chapter-story has provided us with plenty new sights, events, and vocabulary to look up, even as we've found some very familiar, if seasonally upside down, scenes through the pages. While I have primarily been aiming my reading at the younger children, the teens have been quick to jump in and Google places and things - such as the Anzac biscuits, mentioned in the first couple of story-chapters of the book, to find out more about them.
Anzac biscuits derive their name from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Soldiers in the corps were known as "Anzacs". Anzac biscuits were a popular care package item from mothers to soldiers during World War I. With no eggs, or diary, they were spoil resistant, and perfect for the long sea voyage to the soldiers European, and Middle Eastern locations.
Eggs and milk might not be called for in the recipe, but there is golden syrup, and desiccated coconut.
Golden syrup, also known as treacle (as in the main ingredient of Harry Potter's favorite kind of tart, or one of the Boxtroll's grocery list items in Alan Snow's novel), is an amber colored, caramel-ish, liquid byproduct of refined sugar cane. It is also extremely difficult to come by State-side. We ordered a bottle online.
If you live in the US, are bored one day, and want a good laugh, ask a clerk at your local grocery store, where they keep the treacle - and watch the expression on their face, as they try to remain polite and professional.
As to the desiccated coconut, we settled for a bag of unsweetened, dried stuff, we found on the health food aisle, and called it close enough - the clerks were all wisely busy elsewhere in the store, at the time.
Happily, after double checking that old fashioned oats were the same thing as rolled oats - we were good to go. The rest of the ingredients - sugar, flour, butter and baking soda, are kitchen staples in our house.
Then, the only problem we had, was deciding whether to try out a recipe for chewy biscuits, using brown sugar, or the more traditional(?), white sugar, crunchy ones. We're all for tradition, but we really prefer chewy to crunchy cookies, and so opted for a brown sugar recipe.
The children loved the biscuits (all except for D, who doesn't care for coconut, and wouldn't try one). They thought we should make another batch with macadamia nuts and white chocolate, and the Man of the House agreed, but...
...with the coconut and rolled oats, they tasted so much like the Gumdrop Cookies my mother used to make, at Christmastime, when I was a child (substituting candied fruit for the gumdrops - because gumdrops are impossible to chop), that I was too busy having a Ratatouille moment, to care what they thought.
Which, now that I think of it, was probably the point of mothers sending their sons cookies on the battlefield, in the first place.