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You know how a wafting scent or a melody can catapult you back in time? Memories of past moments are conjured up. Sometimes it is bittersweet and reminds one of a long ago love or sometimes smells from the oven or fresh mown grass take you back.

Since we moved often during our years in the Foreign Service, it has been a challenge to stay connected to people and places. We always seemed to be leaving new friends or they were leaving us. Memories of those years are sometimes cloudy, but some are still vivid — especially where food or aromas are concerned. What has now compensated for all those losses is about to be revealed to you.

Because of our four years in Brussels, Belgium spoiled me for the rest of my life. The Grand Place was as beautiful a manmade place as I’ve ever seen. The moules (mussels) and frites (French fries) could not be beaten. Add to that the quality of the coffee and chocolate. Sometimes, I just close my eyes and think especially about the chocolate. The chocolate shops alone were works of art. Yes, we ate the edible art.

Another northern European treat was the speculoos cookie. Googling speculoos to learn where else they might be consumed informed me they’re Dutch, French, German and Belgian and originally had something to do with St. Nicholas Day, December 6. The cookies I’ve purchased in the past are windmills, but others connote the December holiday.

To have discovered speculoos at Aldi’s right here in the Shenandoah Valley kept me smiling all the way home from the store. Then, I found them again at Trader Joe’s in northern Virginia. How could I get so lucky as to find my favorite cookies after discovering them some forty years ago? And, they’re right here just a few miles from home.

Like oreos, they are easily dunked. Like oreos, they’re a taste delight. Like oreos, they contain a few calories. Never mind.

What happened yesterday almost blew my mind. (Yes, of course, it’s easily blown away these days). Returning home from a mountain dulcimer practice, I stopped at Aldi’s again (by the way, owned by the same folks as Trader Joe’s). I had purchased a bag of speculoos last week (and yes, they’d already been dunked and devoured). I happened to look to the right while passing jellies and jams and what did I see but speculoos cookie butter. Can you imagine what a stroke of luck this was?

I almost squealed with delight at the discovery, but I didn’t want to be evicted from the store. I wish I had purchased more than one jar. I plan to give a jar to all my favorite people at Christmas. I know someone else will discover this cookie butter, so I’m heading back to the store this afternoon before somebody buys it up. I think they call people like me compulsive shoppers. Now, I’ll just have to hide everything till wrapping time or it will all get eaten in the interim.

Try out this delicious stuff. It’s suitable for every meal and every snack every day. Just don’t shop at my store! I want to continue feeling connected to Brussels — this cookie butter is almost as good as their chocolate. For you Brussels-era friends who haven’t died yet, come on by — I’ll share some. I’m thinking dying and going to heaven may be just this: speculoos cookie butter. I’m not leaving yet. With apologies to Robert Frost, there are jars and jars to eat before I sleep.

Sandra Brian Lore

Sandra Brian Lore had a typical small-town and suburban life outside Chicago — until she served for 32 years in the Foreign Service.

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