Image credit: Sarah Quigley

Chocolate Chip Coconut Slices

The Mountains — grow unnoticed —
Their Purple figures rise
Without attempt — Exhaustion —
Assistance — or Applause—

— Emily Dickinson

Trout Lake is surrounded by a park called John Hendry, although few people seem to call it that. John Hendry was a lumber tycoon (which is a fittingly Canadian thing to be) and had a sawmill there, until his daughter Aldyen donated the land to the Park Board. So the park became John Hendry park, and it’s an excellent park, with swimming, tennis courts, bike paths, an ice rink and so much more.

It’s lovely in the way that you hope a park will be. Strangers pilot tiny toy sail boats in the shallows of the lake. Someone’s grandfather launches a kite, and a child runs after it, until caught by an updraft it soars beyond reach. Bounding dogs chase anything that can be chased (kids, sticks, pigeons and other dogs), roll in the grass, splash at ducks doing duck things and send them flying for less canine rocked waters. At the right time of year, barbecues fill the park with heady umami scents of wood smoke and grilling meat.

It’s easy to dismiss parks as quiet bastions of leisure, where nothing really important happens - but stories play out there too. Over games of frisbee or kickball, teens grow into their awkward bodies. On blankets in the sun, by half-empty jugs of watermelon lemonade, ants carry off the last crumbs of chocolate chip coconut slices. Beneath the earth is an alien land of creeping, crawling, wriggling things fighting for survival. On midnight strolls lit by a slimming moon, love is made or broken.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird . . . and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want . . . and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

— Carl Sandburg, Wilderness

Across Trout lake, beyond the trees lining the park, beyond the invisible expanse of city, Grouse and the rest of the North Shore mountains peek, craggy, snow-capped most of the year. A friend told me that when she loses her bearings in Vancouver, the mountains are her compass. There are few parts of this town from which they can’t be seen.

From the confines of a city, a landscape shaped by humans for humans, the untamed can feel so far away as to effectively not exist. Not in Vancouver, where those rough peaks become guardians, silent, ancient, ever watching, ever present - constant as the sun in the sky, the earth beneath your feet - a reminder of wide wild world beyond our paved streets and manicured lawns.

Sooner or later, some future Sarah will move on to a new life somewhere else with different colours and a different cadence. When she remembers Vancouver, I think she’ll think of the mountains, their silent strength a backdrop for the sci-fi towers of downtown, which glisten like icicles in the winter sun. Old gods make their homes in mountains. New gods make their homes in towers. Old gods meet new on the streets of Vancouver.

Chocolate Chip Coconut Slices

Preparation time: 15 - 20 minutes Cooking time: 22 - 25 minutes Yield: 12 - 16 slices

This one bowl recipe is dense, chewy and a little fudgy - delicious enough to charm coconut lovers and sceptics alike. If you find these slices a little greasy fresh from the oven, leave them to cool completely (or even to sit overnight) - this will allow oils from the coconut to be reabsorbed.


  • 100 g (3.5 ounces) salted butter
  • 150 g (5.3 ounces / ¾ cup) light muscovado sugar (or similar light sticky brown sugar)
  • 50 g (1.8 ounces / ¼ cup) golden caster sugar (can be substituted with any natural sugar, or if necessary, white sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) natural vanilla extract
  • 100 g (3.5 ounces / 1 cup) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 100 - 125 g (3.5 - 4.4 ounces / ~¾ cup) all-purpose flour (start with 100g, if batter is not fairly thick add extra 25g)
  • 100 g (3.5 ounces / ~¾ cup) dark chocolate (70% cocoa content), chopped into chips
  • 75 g (2.6 ounces / ~½ cup) white chocolate, chopped into chips


  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Line a 20 or 23 cm (8 or 9 inch) round pan with parchment paper (or aluminium foil), and butter the parchment.
  2. In a double boiler, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and stir in both types of sugar.
  3. After allowing the mixture to cool a little (about 5 minutes), stir in egg, flour and coconut. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Pour mixture into the prepared baking pan, sprinkle a few extra chocolate chips on top if desired and bake for 22 - 25 minutes (until the top has turned a nice golden brown colour and the edges are beginning to darken.
  5. Cool in the pan before slicing, or enjoy still a little warm and gooey from the oven.


Make bars instead of slices. Use an 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 inch) square pan, instead of a round pan.

In place of (or in addition to) dark and white chocolate chips, try milk chocolate, butterscotch or even yoghurt chips, dried fruit or nuts, or your favourite candy.

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