Chinese Chews and ‘TV Will Rot Your Brain’

Having freed up my Saturday mornings by removing myself from Art Classes, my father, who didn’t like us to be idle, would put us all into the Holden (no disc brakes, no air-conditioning, no electric windows, no air-bags, no CD-player, no sun-roof and no heated seats), drop my big sister off at Art Class and then take me and my younger sisters to the local library.

‘It’s very important to read’, he’d say, ‘TV is a waste of time and it’ll rot your brain; there’s nothing worth watching anyway.  Instead you should be reading and you need to read everyday.’

‘Yes, dad’.

Chinese Chews

We’d step inside the warm and cosy library where the rules were we could take out three fiction and one non-fiction book per library member, per week.

My father would head over to the adult section where he would enthusiastically turn over the pages of the latest edition to the World Book Encyclopaedias and Em and I would head on down to the children’s section.  We loved the challenge of being quiet; it seemed such a novel thing to do.  Occasionally we’d forget and speak out loud but there’d be plenty of adults nearby who with a quick finger to their lips would loudly utter, ‘Shush’.

I was a huge Enid Blyton fan and having read The Enchanted Wood and the Magic Faraway Tree I then progressed to The Famous Five where I just wanted to be the sixth member of their group and I couldn’t understand why my life was so utterly boring by comparison.  Then I read the Malory Towers series and wished I was going to an all-girls boarding school where I could play lacrosse and star in a pantomime.  I was so sad when I’d read the last book in that series and wished Enid would have written more than just six.

Given I could only take out three fiction books (I was never interested in that fourth non-fiction book), I used to plead with Em to take out a couple of books on her card that I just had to have and couldn’t wait an extra week for.  ‘But you’ll love these, you’ll really like them and when you’ve finished, we can swap.  Oh go on, please?’  And Em would break down under pressure and agree to take out my extra books.

At home I shared a bedroom with my big sister and Em.  We were all put to bed at the same time and were allowed to read before ‘lights out’.  I think we were granted around 30 minutes of reading time and then we had to switch off our bedside lights.  We’d switch them off but as soon as I heard my father’s footsteps had descended to the bottom of the stairs I’d switch my light back on and read for a couple more hours while my two sisters were fast asleep.

It was no trouble to get through those three fiction books each week nor the extras I secured using Em’s library card.

While we were at the library my mother would be at home, baking.  It seems there was always something coming out of the oven.  She would make a variety of things including these Chinese Chews.  There’s nothing Chinese about them but they are chewy.

These are lovely eaten warm, straight from the oven

Chinese Chews

Makes:  16 squares

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  Minimal.  I didn’t need to buy anything.  This recipe is a great way to use up a lot of leftover goodies lying around in your pantry.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 75g (3 oz) melted butter
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tspn salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 3/4 cup fresh dates, chopped
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3/4 cup crystalised ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats

Preheat oven to 180C (375F).

Grease and line a square cake tin.

Beat eggs and sugar, add melted butter and vanilla, pour into dry ingredients previously mixed.  Lastly, add fruit.  Bake for 30-40 mins.  Cut while hot.

This recipe has been adapted from the Edmonds Cookery Book.

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  1. Warm and comforting. Delicious!

  2. Joanne (Eats well with others) says:

    My mom used to have to give me library book limits as well! Those trips to the library were always so much fun. I’ve never heard of these Chinese chews before but with crystallized ginger in them, I know I NEED to have them.

  3. Oooh, I loved Enid Blyton too – so much! I recently bought the entire Enchanted Wood trilogy so my son can read it one day! Such a lovely book! I used to really enjoy Roald Dahl as well… would read and re-read those books!

  4. yummychunklet says:

    Oh, I love quite reading on the weekends. Perfect way to rest up yet be productive before going out at night!

  5. Sweet Posy Dreams says:

    These sound similar to something my mother used to make, except she didn’t add dates.
    I was always quite a reader, too. There was a book I used to get from the school library, it was about a doll. I loved that book but now have no idea of the title. I wish I could remember as I’d loke to see what it was that so interested me at age six or seven.

  6. Victoria at Flavors of the Sun says:

    We deliberately didn’t get tv until Zack was about 10. And now I laugh at how I fall in front of it come seven o’clock at night! At least we are both readers, though. Love the look of the chews. Dates. Yum. And ginger.

  7. says:

    I have never heard of these but they look so good! My dad also was a staunch believer that NO TV was best for mind and body. To this day, we don’t have one in my house! Thank you for sharing both this treat and the great memories!

  8. Oooh, these are kinda a similar profile to the raw vegan bites I make, except these are baked and chewy and delicious and READING IS THE BEST. I’ve been going crazy without books (should’ve bought a kindle) and have just subscribed to The Secret Garden on DailyLit. 😛

  9. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    My parents didn’t see the advantages of libraries, but I begged every week and they would drop me off for the afternoon…oh joy!

  10. Barb Bamber says:

    I remember Chinese Chews!! They’re such yummy little snacks! I loved the library, as I well imagine a lot of us here did and do:D I used to play little games on their bulletin board.. advancing as I read my books to the end of the “game”. xx

  11. thelifeofclare says:

    I’ve never heard of these Chinese chews before but they look amazing! Just delicious! I always loved reading as a kid, the Magic Faraway tree was my favourite, I now read them to my students!

  12. Glamorous Glutton says:

    I loved Mallory Towers too. I thought there were loads in the series, I must have been re- reading them over and over. Enid Blytons house is very close to where I live and the garden is open to the public. I remember having to do deals in the library to get enough books. Such great memories. The Chinese chews look fab. GG

  13. I remember these bars…they were so rich and sweet…just the kind of dessert that doesn’t escape your memory bank. I must try them again! We had the family station wagon with no A/C and no radio…my kids do not understand how rough it was to grow up back in the day…LOL.

  14. Oh Charlie – I have all these ingredients lying around! I’ll be making them later today.
    I was a voracious reader as a kid (still am when I can drag myself away from the keyboard) and used to borrow from the local “Institute Library” until old enough to catch the bus to the library in town. The Institute shelves were guarded by ancient dragon ladies who policed the rules vigorously and made sure I never strayed from the very limited children’s section – a total bummer for me as I had read everything on those shelves in very short time. Discovering the State Library in the city was such a joy for me.

  15. GourmetGetaway says:

    This brings back memories for me too! I loved Enid Blyton, the fantastic five, secret seven and Trixie Beldon books as a kid. I would stay up and read with a torch under the blankets each night!! …oh and I was always told that TV would rot my brain 🙂 I love the look of this dish YUM!

  16. Ahhh, good ol’ World Book encyclopaedias!
    I used to love reading when I was a kid, especially Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books. The weekly trip to the local library was a highlight for me as it meant that I could borrow more of those books. Thing is, my parents saw them as ‘junk books’ and would discourage me from borrowing them, instead urging me to borrow non-fiction books as they were ‘better for the brain.’ This frustrated me because well, you’d think that getting a kid to read, regardless of what sort of books they were into, was a GOOD thing!

  17. I loved Enid Blyton! And Malory Towers was probably my favourite, although I liked the Willow Farm ones as well.. 🙂

  18. I was a voracious reader (still am) and loved Enid Blyton too, but I did think the Secret Seven’s were a bit wussy 🙂 When my parents wanted to punish me they would ban me from reading, and I’d have to watch TV- ironic isn’t it? 🙂

  19. Denise@magnolia verandah says:

    I so loved the library when it was silent – you’re right it held a certain mystic. Not like nowadays when it is more of a meeting place for teenagers who laugh and giggle too much(do I sound like a grumpy old woman?) Enid Blyton was my favourite – although she was frowned upon by my teachers at school (apparently the English was not correct and they preferred you to read the classics). I loved The Famous Five and The Secret Seven and have recently bought them for my grandchildren in a hope that they will love them too.
    When I first came to Australian my mother-in-law use to make Chinese chews, we were only talking about them the other day and she couldn’t remember how she use to make them – I need to look no further, I feel some baking coming on this afternoon, perfect thing for a wet cold Melbourne Saturday afternoon. Thanks!

  20. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    Hehe I’ve never heard of Chinese Chews before. I wonder why they are called that? is it a NZ thing?

  21. Juliet Batten says:

    We all went to the library every week too, and I know what you mean about the special atmosphere, and the challenge of being quiet. The Faraway Tree was a favourite of mine as well. Trees were never the same after that.

  22. Our fathers must have been related. TV was different when I was a kid – it was all live. (the joys of being ancient) but my father would haul us all in the car (no seat belts back then either) and off we’d go to the library. I never wanted kids books. As soon as I could read I wanted “real people” books as I called them. The librarian would say to my father, “Walt, do you really want her reading this?” and he’d roll his eyes and say, “it’s what she wants and if she’s reading, she’s learning, so it’s okay.”

    My mother never made Chinese Chews though! These look great.

  23. Mandy - The Complete Cook Book says:

    How I wish we were encouraged to read more as children. what a lovely account of your childhood reading Charlie and love the idea of Chinese Chews.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  24. Wow you were did read a lot Charlie 🙂 it’s so different to what kids do now on the weekends and what I did ~ It consisted a lot of computer games and using the internet back in my day 😛 it was MSN ahahha now it’s all Whatsapp and Facebook hehe

    I wish I read more as a kid…I did read quite a bit but still not enough but I do remember loving of LM Montgomery books hehe Anne of Green Gables!!!

    Ohhh I these Chinese Chews are kind of like healthy brownies 🙂 And like you said u can use everything up YAY!

  25. What a delightful routine. I’d have been in heaven checking out books and coming home to baking 🙂 I’ve never heard of Chinese chews but they sound wonderful too, and just right for pairing with a good book.

  26. I have to take my boys to the library. I used to with my oldest son, but I was never brave enough to take all three as I was scared that that was way too many books to lose. But I do have such fond memories of my mum staking me to the library as a kid. xx

  27. Your dad was a wise man to promote reading to his children!

  28. As a kid, I lived at the library but now two of my three boys want little to do with it. I still love to go and browse and sit and read and relax.

  29. mjskit @ says:

    I read as a kid but not near as much as you. During the past 10 years I’ve been trying to catch up on all of the books I missed. I LOVE to read! These chews look delicious! love the fruit and ginger!

  30. How many Saturday afternoons did I spend at our neighborhood library? Now the only time I go is to vote. I need to change that. There’s no need to own every book I read. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction. 🙂

  31. I also loved the Famous Five books and imagined I was on their adventures with them. I guess the children of today have moved on to other literature – they don’t know what they are missing.

  32. Claire @ Claire K Creations says:

    I’m so glad that my parents got us into reading too. I much prefer to curl up with a book than watch TV.

  33. Jed Gray (sportsglutton) says:

    Dates, ginger, and walnuts?? I think I would have read a lot more as a child if I knew I was coming here to these. 🙂

  34. justonecookbook says:

    I can see why you write so well – your childhood with lots of books! My son is into reading now and I’m so blessed. My husband is a big reader but I wasn’t. I still read English so slow that’s ridiculous (after living here for 15 years). Anyway, I shouldn’t give up yet and read more books…although now it seems like more blog posts reading than book reading. But I think my English reading skill is better haha. Your mom is a baker and so you are. How nice to have family baked recipes around.

  35. Charlie, it’s evident that your Dad’s interest in your brain paid off. Great story!

  36. What a memory! I too love Famous Five and wondered why my life wasn’t as exciting and then I too wanted to go to a boarding school like Malory Towers! I do remember my teacher telling me though that when I went to my 11+ interview, not to mention Enid Blyton as a favourite author! I loved her books though. These bars look yummy and easy to throw together. I have everything in my pantry right now.

  37. I was one of those weird kids that enjoyed reading dictionaries and encyclopedias … In fact, that’s how I learned that there was no santa claus … I looked it up in the encyclopedia 🙂

    Great recipe, Charlie 🙂

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