Taj was the only tiger on the entire Indian subcontinent with a nut allergy. Granted, he’d never left the jungle where he was born, so he was really only going off the fifty other tiger kids in his school, but of them only his friend Kala also had an allergy – and that was just to dust. Taj didn’t think he’d mind being allergic to dust, especially if all it meant was a runny nose and sneezing. With Kala’s cute way of sticking her tongue out when she daintily ker-chooed, it just made people like her more.
For Taj it wasn’t so easy. His first day of school his parents sent him off with a giant pack of emergency supplies tied around his neck in case a nut somehow snuck into his lunch box. It wasn’t a huge risk, given that most of the kids brought raw yak or the occasional elephant steak for lunch, but there were a few vegetarians in the class and he’d had to escape to the nurse’s office the few times they’d brought in nut burger patties.
What he hated the most were all the questions: “What’s wrong with you?” “What’s in your pack?” “What happens if you eat a nut?” “What’s a nut?” He’d answer the same questions a thousand times, and eventually his classmates got used to it – but he would still overhear whispers. The worst were birthdays, when kids brought in cupcakes to share with the class. Inevitably some unknowing parent would sprinkle nuts on a batch, and Taj would have to go sit in the hallway while the other kids licked icing off the little cakes and sang happy birthday.
When his sixth birthday rolled around, Taj had never been more excited. His dad baked him a special tray of nut-free cupcakes, and he couldn’t wait to celebrate with the others. But when he brought his tray to the front of the class, Mina, a big, aggressive cub, made a face.
“Ew,” she said, holding her paw in front of her nose. “Healthy cupcakes.”
“They’re not healthy,” Taj argued. “They’re delicious.”
“Are they made of vegetables? I hate vegetables,” complained Mina.
“No! They just don’t have nuts!”
But it was too late – the other kids were repeating, “Gross! Veggies!” and making gagging noises. Taj dropped the tray to the ground and ran out of the room before anyone could see the tears in his eyes.
This year he was determined to stay home on his birthday. But his parents had other ideas.
“Honey,” called his mom gently, knocking on his door. “Come see what your Dad made for you. It’s a special surprise.”
Taj dragged himself to the kitchen where his dad, wearing an apron, presented him with two trays filled with crusty warm tarts.
Taj inspected them closely. “These look different.”
“Of course they’re different! Honey, tell him what you found.”
His mom held up a bag of wrinkly brown pods. “Tigernuts! I foraged them this morning, during the hunt.”
“They’re not actually nuts!” said his parents in unison. “They just taste like them!”
“I don’t know if the kids will eat them,” said Taj slowly.
“Who cares?” said his dad. “More for you!”
But when it came time to share his treats with the class, they crowded around him. “What are those? Those aren’t cupcakes!”
For a second, Taj’s heart sank. But then Kala spoke up.
“They look amazing! Can I have one?”
He handed her a tart and she took a big bite. “Mmm! Delicious!”
“I want one!”
In no time at all the kids were happily munching away, coming back for seconds until all the tarts were gone. Relief flooded through Taj. He didn’t know it then, but he’d started a trend. Tigernuts became the hottest thing to sprinkle on dessert, and Tigernut Taj, as the others now called him, received a cheer and an extra nut-free cupcake at every kid’s birthday.
- Pour water into medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Add salt and ACV.
- Quarter and core pears, and poach in simmering liquid for 10-15 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and slice when cool.
- Mix shortbread dough and press into parchment lined baking dish (I used a bread pan, this recipe makes extra so you have enough left over for a mini tart).
- Mix tigernut paste and spread on top of crust.
- Lay pears on top of paste.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes until crust has browned. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or apply jam/honey glaze and enjoy!