Yesterday morning, I had an entirely different post planned for you today. It wasn't about cookies, it wasn't about Nashville, it wasn't about the person who likes these cookies most. But plans change. You might remember over a month ago,…
I have been waiting a long time to tell you about these cookies.
They first came to me last spring, in one of the earliest emails exchanged between here and Nashville.
Then came summer, fall, winter and a move to Tennessee.
Before long, here we were in the heart of spring again, evidenced all around us by green grass and blooming flowers, powerful thunderstorms and days of rain (and I mean that whether I’m at home in the South or at home visiting Chicago—which I’ve already done twice this month, and, I know, I know, but for good reasons, I promise).
Anyway, every year I remember again how much I love this time of year and the way buds poke out of branches, the way life comes out of the ground again. It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to pull out my camera, except for a small problem I’ve also been meaning to tell you about: somewhere in the midst of the move, I lost my camera’s battery charger, and when I ordered a replacement, it practically caught on fire when I plugged it in. So while I wait for a replacement replacement, now seems a perfect time to pull these buckwheat chocolate chip cookies out of hibernation.
Not only are they nutritious, but they’re something special in terms of taste and texture: cake-like and soft, but with a little crispness around the edges, riddled with bits of dark chocolate and that unmistakable bite of buckwheat.
Plus, at least for me and my memories, they’re decidedly spring—a welcome attribute these days, while I watch the world come to life without a camera to share it with you, but with instead with just these cookies—something almost better.
I’ve been thinking lately: One of the worst parts about being far away from people is missing out on the everyday stuff of their lives, you know? The funny stories about coworkers, the play-by-play of awkward conversations, the new recipes, the introductions, the disappointments, all those ordinary humdrum things that make up our days. I remember feeling it after college, when my friends lived in other states and e-mail and phone calls could only help so much. Then there was last summer, when the friend I’d worked with for three years got a new job (and shortly thereafter, I became self-employed) and we stopped seeing each other every afternoon.
It’s life. People get married, friends move away, there are job transitions and new cities and all kinds of change. We should expect it.
And for me, lately, it’s been the transition of my own leaving—moving from almost everyone I know to live in a different city, to be with a different person, eight hours away from where I was—and along with it, the unintended but accompanying blog break, where I’m barely eeking out a weekly post. Where did that come from?
It seems these things can kind of sneak up on us. I mean, one day, you’re spending a casual Thursday chatting with your friend at the office; the next, you’re sitting at your roommate’s dining room table, eating avocado on toast in the middle of Tennessee. It’s life. It’s change. I may always be amazed by it.
And I think, in all these transitions, there are moments when you miss things—say, your family, your streets, the ability to run to Whole Foods with your brother at 9:30 PM—but, the longer you hang on and stick with it, seeing all the new, good things in your life along with what can seem to be bad, things keep feeling more normal. You grow with the change, and you adapt.
Also, you work really hard at staying in touch with the people you love because then you probably can. I hope.
So that’s what this post is all about: you and me, staying in touch. A lot has happened since that chicken soup debacle, for example, and you ought to be updated: Tim and I went home for a few days to surprise my mom for her birthday (and it worked!); I got over being sick; I tried chewy, charred Neapolitan-style pizza at City House; I met an old coworker for coffee/lunch and we bonded over a love for warmer weather in the South. I’ve even got a real bed now, and it was approximately $50 cheaper than what I’d expected to pay.
Beyond that, as you’d expect, there has been some cooking.
When I have a little down time, I usually think of cookies—because some things don’t change at all—and after a few experiments last week, I was still on the hunt for a good chocolate cookie.
Ideally, I was looking for a chocolate cookie with some crunch—a gingersnap but made of chocolate—and while these aren’t exactly that, they are a good find just the same.
Plus, being that they’re adapted from an Oreo recipe at Smitten Kitchen, it was an obvious next step to turn them into sandwiches of some kind, which is exactly what we did Tuesday afternoon with Ben & Jerry’s vanilla.
Oh my goodness, people. It was really good that there were only four cookies left when the ice cream sandwich idea happened—just enough for two—because otherwise I literally wouldn’t have been able to stop making them.
Prepare yourself: These are no joke. I like to think of them as a byproduct of the move—along with changing addresses and learning new things and missing people—because in that way, things really seem pretty great.
The thing nobody tells you ahead of time when you say you’re going to move to a new place is that doing so—packing up most of your belongings and driving eight hours to a new city with the help of two men who must really love you to put themselves through a drive of snow and ice and, Indiana on the whole of their Saturday and Sunday—will, at many times, feel much less like Adventure and much more like Terrifying.
Which, I guess, is another way of saying, I’m here, for those of you who’ve been wanting an update. I’ve gone and moved to Nashville. I’m sleeping on a mattress on the floor and realized yesterday I didn’t bring my snow clothes (it snows in the South? what?), but on the whole, things are good. In fact, there has been a lot of Adventure in getting to know new streets, meeting lots of new people, visiting three libraries before finding a place to work on Monday afternoon.
And while I do already have some basic groceries, this post is actually about a dessert we—I and that guy I moved to Nashville for—made a couple weeks ago at his house, back when I was still hunting for a place to live in this city that I guess is now home.
It’s pretty simple, just a combination of egg whites, sugar, coconut and a few other small things, but it’s handy to have when you want to use leftover egg whites (say, after making some homemade chocolate pudding, for example).
If you’ve ever had store-bought coconut macaroons before, you’re in for a pleasant surprise with this homemade version: it’s so much softer and chewier than what I’ve had before. To finish them off, we melted a bar of dark chocolate to dip or drizzle them in, but that step is entirely optional.
I was thinking last night while I boiled water for tea that it’s funny what things make you feel at home. For me, it’s seeing my clothes in the closet, knowing my towel’s on the back of the bathroom door but, more than that, it’s food—using the same kinds of ingredients I used in Chicagoland, stocking a new pantry, eating toast with butter and raw honey for breakfast.
So when I come up for air around here—amidst a sea of work projects and an always growing shopping list—I can already tell you where you’ll find me:
and I’m already in the mood for more cookies.
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately planning a move. It’s not a tragedy, I know. It’s just one of those things that requires work, much like finding a job or learning a new skill—you have to deal with some discomfort, things aren’t exactly easy, there are costs and, in the end, you hope you emerge a little different, a little wiser, having gone through it.
Last week, my brother and I were talking about logistics—you know, the obvious things of furniture, moving trucks, long drives across several states—and I kept trying to find a way to solve things better. He’d say, Why don’t you buy a bed when you get there? And I’d say, I don’t want to spend the money! He’d say, It’s not that much money. And I’d say, I am going to be broke!
It was kind of funny, actually. Or at least it is now.
From a removed standpoint, I see the problem. What I want is not just to relocate. I want to relocate without spending any money, losing any sleep, causing anyone any difficulty. I want to relocate without relocating. Or at least, I want relocating in a perfect world.
It’s such a silly thing to get stressed out about. It’s just moving. But you know, I’ve been thinking about it, and whether you’re talking about moving or the way two dozen white hairs emerge on your 20-something head, the fact is that this world really isn’t a perfect place. We’re reminded of imperfections every day, in the big things of murder and suffering as well as the small things of long lines and angry strangers. We all taste difficulty. We all experience frustration. In different ways and at different times, but still. I mean, I don’t even watch the news, and I can tell you from experience that there is pain and hardship in this life.
But the thing I am thankful for, even more than that in this life there is also joy, is that the imperfections of this world remind me of life beyond it.
Like Elisabeth Elliot wrote:
Heaven is not here, it’s There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next.
Oh, that’s so good.
I am also thankful—very thankful—for the good gifts we taste now.
Like blue skies.
Like eyes to see them.
Like a sun that rises every morning, as faithfully as the God who made it.
And I am thankful for my particular gifts, like love, like self-employment, like the way these things are moving me towards a move. I am thankful, this week, for some time in the kitchen to bake cookies—the best chocolate chocolate cookies I’ve made really, little nibbles that are more than just cookies but actually like the lovechild of cookies and truffles combined, soft and rich, covered in chopped walnuts.
I’m thankful to sit cross-legged in the kitchen on a Tuesday afternoon, with a giant white bowl and a big spoon, licking chocolate batter in contentment, grateful for what I have, even more grateful for what will come.
I realized this morning that I was starting to forget what it felt like to post a blog entry. And that that was probably not a good sign.
I don’t really know what to say about it. I mean, it’s the strangest thing. Over the last few weeks, I’ve made homemade chicken stock, chicken and rice soup, homemade puff pastry (adapted from this great version at Not Without Salt), goat cheese tarts, pistachio biscotti, roasted vegetables, pizza. In almost all cases, I’ve taken no photos, I’ve planned no blog posts, I’ve just made and eaten and moved on.
Who am I?
Maybe it was finishing Project 365: marathon runners get to rest for a while, right? Maybe it was starting a new year. Maybe it was being busy and feeling like simplifying my to-do list meant cutting time here.
Whatever the case, hello again. I’ve missed you.
So let’s catch up a little. I spent the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011 out of town, in Nashville—a place that just may become my new home if I can work out a living arrangement sometime soon—and on the first of the year, we drizzled chocolate onto anise biscotti that looked just like these (but were not, actually, these, as I didn’t even bring my camera on the trip).
I just read that last parenthesis and shook my head.
You know that law about how objects in motion tend to stay in motion? I guess objects not in motion, well, let’s just say it’s easy to not blog when you haven’t been blogging—kind of like it’s easy to not clean the bathroom when you haven’t for a while, or easy to not pick up the phone when you’ve forgotten for a few weeks, or easy to stay in your pajamas on a Monday morning at 2:30 PM because you’ve gotten caught up with work on your computer and you’re in the flow of things and time just flies by.
Reading this post is starting to feel like a giant sigh.
But the good news is, just because it’s easy for things to stay a certain way doesn’t mean they have to. I mean, look, here I am writing a post! There you are, back at work in January! So it’s possible to do something different—to work out this afternoon instead of staying in your pajamas for example, or to go bake biscotti like you’ve always thought you should.
I’ll even help you with that last part.
This version, which I ended up making all over again last week, a few days after ringing in the new year, because seriously I enjoyed them that much, are packed with that unmistakably licorice flavor of anise, an ingredient I don’t get enough of. We made all kinds of modifications to the original recipe, halving it and swapping brandy with yogurt and adding spices and extra anise seed, and the result is really incredible: crunchy, sturdy enough for dunking in a hot drink, slightly sweet, and virtually irresistible every time you walk into the kitchen and see them on the counter.
Of course, you could resist them if you really wanted to—just like I’m forcing myself to get out of bed once I click publish. But you know what I mean.
At lunch the other day with Jacqui and her sister Jenny, we got talking about cookies and holiday baking, about how everyone has their favorite type of chocolate chip cookie and how my grandma used to make dozens of cookie tins to give away each year. I eventually found myself saying, with animation even, cookies are my favorite thing to bake, ever. And it’s true.
While this year is going to be my family’s most low-key Christmas yet, with not a lot of celebrations to worry about or long shopping lists to work through, and I won’t be seeing everyone I want to—a fact that gets me a little down when I start thinking about it—I’m still surprised to say that, here we are, December 13, and I haven’t baked a single holiday cookie. (There were sticky buns this weekend though, so don’t feel too sorry for me.)
So in an effort to get myself back in the holiday-baking spirit and to point you to a few quality cookie recipes stashed away on this site, I present Christmas Cookies 2010. If you have a favorite that you make every year, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!