True Squares.
An offering from The Fella’s Father

Last week I received an unsolicited email from the fella’s father.

He wanted to talk about squares. Not the mathematical kind, the edible kind. True squares to be specific.

That led to an email exchange about True squares which I would like to share with you now.


Hi Karen,
If you’re still in the market for a true list I offer the following:
The Fella’s Father:


There are three true squares and one honourary true square. All other “squares” are nothing but overdecorated, unappetizing sugary horrors that ought to be scraped into the garbage at once. The true squares are:

The Nanaimo bar, aka the Mabel bar, perfection on a paper napkin, the pride of Vancouver Island and the only true square that doesn’t require baking.
The date square (real oats only, no instant porridge mix—ever.)
The brownie (NO NUTS!)
The honourary true square is the lemon square. I don’t like them myself and would sooner open up a vein with a rusty fork than eat one, but I put it on the list to show I am broadminded and open to new ideas.

With the exception of the Nanaimo bar, true squares require baking. If you’re making something with crème de menthe, Jell-o or Rice Crispies and the recipe says to refrigerate, you’re not making a square, you’re making a mess.

True squares should measure at least two inches per side. Church ladies take note: Nothing mars a funeral like the puny half-inch squares served up after the rites. Make them bigger.


This email prompted an immediate reply from me. What about the peanut butter square?  Was that not a true square?  It’s either covered in chocolate, or at the very least offers a delicious chocolate base.  What about this as a true square?   Was there room on the list for this?  Or fudge?  If it was cut into a square was fudge not a square?  What about a square of fudge?  Or a coconut square?  These all seem like viable options to me.  What about them?

My email went unnoticed.  He still hasn’t replied.

Other than a single lined email that said “I’m giving true meats some thought.” I haven’t heard from him since.  Last I heard he was seen wearing a tin foil hat picketing the doors of the hamburger bun factory that recently added a whole grain option to their product list.


[print_this]Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8″ x 8″ pan.

Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

Third Layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

(recipe from the Nanaimo, B.C. website)



  1. Sharon says:

    And here is the Nanaimo Bar . It’s #9 on the list!

  2. The Fella's Father's Wife says:

    Just feel I need to make something clear here.
    Yes. The fella’s dad does indeed have a true wife, but JUST ONE. There are no 4 or 5 true wives, or true mistresses or true Hos. Just me. Just one, glorious and true wife.

  3. Valerie says:

    Custard powder inquiries: most countries will sell “puddings” in little boxes in their grocery stores to which one adds milk. There are two types of puddings: the instant type (powdered) to which you add milk and beat and then simply pour into dessert cups and this will set in about 10 minutes. The other type available is a powdered concoction to which you add milk and heat to a boil and then pour into dessert cups about an hour before serving. In lieu of the famous Bird’s custard powder I have used the “cooked” type of pudding (vanilla flavoured) and had my Nanaimo bars turn out perfectly.Two companies that put this type of pudding out in Canada – North America are Jello and Sheriffs.

  4. Melissa says:

    How do you pronounce “Nanaimo”? I have a recipe book that has them, and I’ve always wondered. Is it NAN-aye-moh? Or Nanah-EE-moh? Or something else entirely? Clueless in Connecticut…

  5. Melody says:

    Could you stick a photo on this post? I’d like to pin it!

  6. carol says:

    Nothing with coconut. No. Not ever.

  7. AnnW says:

    I think the fella’s father looks more like Sean Connery. No Peter Falk involved. Maybe a little Peter O’Toole. Does he have a “true wife?”

  8. Sara says:

    Blondies? No blondies? Only brownies. Huh. Martha Stewart had a recipe for Nutella blondies that sounded very nice. I’ll be sure to not tell the fella’s father if ever I decide to make them. :)

  9. Another Karen says:

    These sound delicious! I’ll make them next month when I return from vacation. I just hope I can cut a square squarely. Will it work if I make rectangles?

  10. rktrixy says:

    For those of us who are not Canadians (and sadder for it, I think) is custard powder the same as instant pudding?

    Just curious.

  11. Naomi says:

    What about Rice Krispie Squares? They don’t need to be baked, and they’re pretty classic. Yes, I have small children.

  12. Leslie Zuroski says:

    I LOVE that you guys call them squares instead of bars.

  13. Arlene says:

    Well, I just got home from a weekend in Canada and I had these and didn’t even know what they were called. They were delicious. I had a sneaking suspicion they had coconut in the base and I was right – yay! (although I don’t care for coconut, this was the one exception – the cream layer and chocolate layer far outweighed the coconut). Now, to find custard powder – never heard of it.

  14. Johan says:

    So if a “Nanaimo Bar” is actually a square why aren’t they called Nanaimo Squares?
    And more importantly, is the qualification of a “Square” determined by it’s ingredients?
    I think not!

    While we are solving world problems does anyone know at what size a tart becomes a pie if everything else is equal.

    • Amber says:

      All my life ‘Nanaimo Bar’s’ have always been in rectangles! One side has always been longer, never a square! The name is correct! Don’t worry, no conspiracies here!

  15. KarenJ says:

    Dear Karen,
    I have a secret need to see a photo of the Fella’s Father.
    Right now I’m seeing Albert Finney meets Peter Falk.
    Am I close?

  16. Amy in StL says:

    Nanaimo doesn’t sound like a true square. It sounds like someone has a bias towards something they like but that sounds rather gross. Coconut and custard powder? Yuck! I don’t know what a date square it, but I’d venture its similar to my mom’s raspberry jam bars which have a layer of preserves inbetween crumbly oaty layers.

    • Natika says:

      No, Nanaimo bars are standard in Canada. It is not just the Fella’s father. Don’t knock ’em till you’ve tried ’em!

      Yes, your mother’s jam bars sound similar to date squares.

  17. The Fella's Dad says:

    And another thing: peanut butter has NO PLACE in a square. Peanut butter goes in a cookie, on toast or between two slices of bread. Duh!

  18. Jeannie B says:

    These are the squares that I’m making today. No baking involved. I first tasted these while visiting some folk who lived out in the country. I remember it well, because as I was having tea, a big brown horse was standing at the picture window, nose pressed against the glass, watching me. I call them Microwave Healthy Squares:
    Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in microwave with 1cup of peanut butter, 1/2 cup butter. Mix, then add 1 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup dried coconut, 1 cup chopped nuts , 1 cup wheat germ, 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries , maybe 1/2 sesame seeds if you have them. Mix all together, spread in buttered 8 inch pan, put if fridge till set, then cut in 1 inch squares. Really good, freeze well. Sort of square/ fudge.

  19. The Fella's Dad says:

    You can’t call fudge a square. Fudge is not a square. It is one of the true Halloween candies.

    • Laura Bee says:

      I’ll chime in here – fudge is a Christmas treat. And also, why are brownies a square? I thought squares always had at least 2 layers. Methinks the lemon is true & the brownie honourary.

  20. Stephanie says:

    Lemon squares, oh yes. Adding “date squares” to the requested recipe list. So yummy, even if far too sweet.

  21. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    OK Mr “broadminded and open to new ideas”..Why not fudge..Karen said what about fudge..We always cut our fudge into squares here in the US of A..fudge is good and comes in many flavors..I guess you need to re-think this one don’t you Mr Man..So there..

  22. Wendy W says:

    Peanut butter squares ARE squares too! Do we have to start a facebook page for peanut butter square lovers?

  23. ally says:

    I have to say that I have a recipe for Nanaimo that requires baking the bottom layer – just sayin’. And I’m breaking up with the fella’s father if turkey isn’t on the true meat list. You can warn him, we’re not currently speaking (well, technically we never have, what with us being total strangers).

  24. Tori says:

    OK How do I say Nanaimo? In case I decide to make them, I don’t want to sound like an idiot.

  25. Johan says:

    No disrespect to The Fella’s Father; he is entitled to his opinion how ever misguided it may be. Come on, coconut squares?
    Tell me more about the lemon ones sitting on the edge of squaredom….?

    I am now sitting here wondering what the definition of True Meat is? If jerky isn’t, then where is bacon?

  26. nancy says:

    Cocoa Powder?? As in unsweetened Cocoa Powder? Popular brands are Hershey’s, Ghirardelli, and Scharffen Berger.

    Hershey’s is aways around, I not sure how common the other 2 are. Probably very common, considering where I now live, the more esoteric and expensive it is, the better it is be down wid dat.

  27. Tigersmom says:

    “but I put it on the list to show I am broadminded and open to new ideas.”

    Ha! This is why we tolerate (and by tolerate I mean dearly love) the Fella’s father. And, I agree with many others, he needs to be profiled and not just by the FBI. ; )

  28. Jeannie B says:

    Hmmmm. Squares. Guaranteed to raise the blood sugar instantly. But so tasty. Methinks perhaps that the fella’s dad is a transplanted “Limey”. and the custard powder is none other than the legendary, “Bird’s”. I have a can on my shelf. The church ladies know how to stretch a pan of squares to feed a multitude. But I agree that there’s nothing more delicious than a 2 inch square rich, dark, chocolate brownie. And why did date squares used to be called Matrimonial Cake? That’s something I’ve always wondered about.

  29. Laura says:

    Love hearing from the Fella’s father! However I’m curious… does he only eat ‘true’ food items?

  30. Erica O says:

    Oh my gosh, I am so thankful he honoraried the lemon square; I’d have offered to open his veins with a rusty fork for him, otherwise. Obviously, those are my favorites.
    I can solve the problem of the mini-square, though. It’s a mathematical trick: If one square should measure 2″x2″ (which, in the American Midwest is considered mini, as their full-size squares are 4″x4″), a proper lady or gentleman can only eat one. However, if said square is then cut down to .5″x.5″ pieces, they become bite-sized and a proper lady or gentleman can eat six to eight bites before being seen as vulgar. Six to eight bites of .5″x.5″ squares has a greater mass than a single 2″x2″ square. So, pretty much, you get to be a pig while looking delicate! It’s an awesome trick, really.

  31. Laura Nazizmiec says:

    I love the fella and fella/father posts…so funny. Keep them coming. Do not have any input about true squares because I like them all.

  32. Ruth says:

    On the strength of your pie post, I went in to the city fully prepared to picket my usual health food store for alcohol-free vanilla, but wadya know… I didn’t have to. I am now the proud owner of alcohol-free almond extract too.

    Now…. on to today’s post… what can I use to replace custard powder (sounds ‘eggy’)? Will it still be a true square if I use regular chocolate?
    (I already did the chocolate hunt for some other recipe… exercise in futility)

    I’ve never had any of these squares, and I’d really love to try this one.

  33. ruth says:

    The Fella’s Dad makes some valid points here and I’m inclined to agree. His open-mindedness to the lemon square is truly generous.

  34. Natika says:

    Nice! If I can find custard powder around here somewhere I’ll give these a go.

    I gotta say that I disagree with the two-by-two rule though. I prefer a smaller square even if I end up eating two of them. LOL!

  35. The Fella's Dad says:

    Jerky is NOT a true meat. Get that thought out of your head right now. Jerky is a snack.

  36. Ashley says:

    Nanaimo Bars for the win! Representing my home town.

  37. Suanne says:

    What is vanilla custard powder, and where can I get some? And would the Fella’s Father consider making a list of “true midnight snacks”?

  38. Janet says:

    Love it!

  39. Tanya H. says:

    This might oust Nanaimo Bars from the true square list, but due to grocery oversight, I once subbed Oreo crumbs for the graham cracker crumbs. Fan-freakin’-tastic.

  40. qtpuh2tme says:

    I LUV Nanaimo bars!! The first and only Canadian desert I’ve ever made. They are definitely time consuming, and oh-so-worth-it! NOM! ~:)

  41. Mary Werner says:

    Not familiar with custard powder – is it similar to instant pudding mix? A clearer picture of the Fella is emerging!

    • Marti says:

      Mary, it’s similar, but it’s really its own thing: Bird’s Custard Powder is often sold at World Markets, which sometimes carry it. Amazon has it, too, but Karen will probably want to give you the link.

      • Liz says:

        We get Bird’s Custard Powder here in the UK but it is basically vanilla flavoured (& coloured) cornflour (corn starch) which sounds a bit odd in the recipe. It would normally be mixed with milk & sugar and heated to thicken into custard sauce.

  42. Jody says:

    I think you should profile the Fella’s father. Just saying he seems like an interesting fella.

  43. marilyn says:

    i love the fellas father, especially since he included lemon personal fave. nanaimo bars..not so much. true meat! can’t wait for that list! lol

  44. Laura Bee says:

    I hate to think what would have happened if the Fella’s Father had ever come into the restaurant I used to work at. We made Nanaimo bars in a pie dish then cut them into wedges to serve.

  45. Marti says:

    What? Where’s the date bar recipe?

    Seriously, so tickled with this list that I giggled for 2 minutes consecutively and then got hiccups.

    12:24am… Karen.

    Did I really need hiccups at this time of night?

    I think we both know the answer to that one.

    (PS: Are Nanaimo bars Canadian? I thought they were like the National Dessert of New Zealand or some place down under?)

    Is jerky a “true meat”? Any idea?

    • Karen says:

      Marti – I have broached the subject of true meats before and was shut down. There apparently will be no discussion of true meats. He seems kind of touchy about it. There may have been some sort of ham attack in his past I don’t know about. ~ karen!

      • Marti says:

        I just appreciate him keeping his lists to 4-5 TRUE items, whatever they may be. He doesn’t lower himself to the degradation of something like “Homemade Samosas” or Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies. Or Cherry Winks, for goodness sake. Imagine the shame of it all!

  46. Raymonde says:

    Nanaimo bars!!! Enough said.

  47. susan Preston says:

    Woo Hoo! We make all of these squares!!! Even the Lemon Square that just happens to be our most popular one… besides the Date and Brownie of course!! With no nuts I might add! Nanaimo bars are special and get made at Christmas time!! your father in law and I would get along just fine I think!! ;-)

  48. Alisha says:

    I’m soooo glad Nanaimo Bars are on this list. I woulda had to have words with the Fella’s Father if they weren’t. Can I just say though that Nanaimo Bars must be nut free as well? Nuts ruin the delicious texture!

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