Edit: I wrote this post before the Newtown tragedy Friday afternoon, but, reading back over it now, I’m struck by how much I need the reminder all over again—to look for the good in people helping, praying, loving; to recognize the darkness that brings murder and heartbreak and how it is so not at all the voice of Light. It feels wrong not to acknowledge the pain that the affected families of children and teachers are facing today. We wish we could do more. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Newtown.
Some days, I’m overwhelmed by the lack of love in the world: the snubbing, the name-calling, the pushing, the overlooking, the thoughtlessness human beings show to one another.
For as many of you as relate to a genuine curiosity and interest in other people like I mentioned in the last post, there are others who don’t, who never turn their eyes outward, who come to the party and talk but never listen, who sit near you at a table and stare sullenly ahead, who learn your name and job title and put you into a box marked Understood.
I’d like to throw all such offenders into a Them box, one decidedly Not-Me, but then the thought flashes through my mind, while I sit across from strangers at a car dealership this past week, that I should try to talk to them, show some kindness, and I don’t; I share dinner with a friend and know I could encourage him, and, instead, I’m quiet; we run into friends, and, instead of entering into their lives, I’m anxious to get back to work; I go through entire days of regular life with my husband without once stopping to consider and tell him how good I know he is to me.
And other days, I’m overwhelmed by the love there is in the world. Sonja and Alex from A Couple Cooks go to Cambodia and partner with the Center for Global Impact to create a a cookbook that benefits at-risk young women in Cambodia. Nicole Gulotta starts The Giving Table to find a way to do good with food. Stephanie May writes true words about how vulnerability goes hand in hand with love. Strangers let me go in front of them in line at the grocery store. Tim lets me cry on his shoulder while we watch Parenthood’s winter finale.
This is life, pain and joy smashed up against each other, “the holding pain and heartbreak in one hand and tickling your kid and laughing in your deepest gut in the other,” the surreal goodness of self-employed newlywed life mixed with the hard truth that some people won’t like you in it (sometimes, for it).
What it makes me think is, partly, that this life is not perfect (and not all there is); partly, that all things are complicated (again); and, mostly, that alongside grief there is comfort, and alongside hard things there are good.
Maybe the key is learning how to count the good things heavier, learning how to give them more weight.
I’ll start—by telling you about these lemon almond coconut macaroons, baked during a few quiet hours home alone on Sunday afternoon, just a simple little riff on the version we’ve made many times before. When the last tray of them turned golden, the final momentary drops of daylight fading fast, I placed them on a cutting board in the dining room, and Tim walked in the kitchen door, back from watching football, and he ate one and we sat on the sofa and there was nothing left for us to have to do all day. It was a good moment, the kind Tim’s always saying we should comment on, so we remember.
Lemon Almond Coconut Macaroons
Makes around 30 to 40 cookies
I looked at these macaroons as a sort of experiment: Can one make macaroons without all coconut? I am happy to tell you yes—I substituted 2 cups of almond flour for part of the original coconut amount, and this recipe still turned out great. The centers of the macaroons weren’t as crisp, kind of chewy instead, but the overall feel was the same. And the bright lemon flavor is quite nice.
1 cup egg whites (from around 8 eggs)
2 cups coconut palm sugar (or other sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 cup einkorn flour (or other flour)
Zest from one lemon
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
In a large stockpot over medium-low heat, mix together the egg whites, sugar, salt, honey, coconut, almond flour, einkorn flour and lemon zest. Stir constantly as the mixture combines, scraping the bottom as you do. Keep this up until the mixture just begins to scorch at the bottom.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in almond extract and lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature (this is the perfect point to refrigerate the mixture for later, if you like: it can be chilled for a week or frozen up to two months).
To bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and scoop dough into little rounds on the sheets. I like to use my cookie-dough-scooper so I get uniform sizes, but we have free-formed before in order to make more mini macaroons, which are great for parties! Bake for 18-20 minutes, until deep golden brown. Cool completely.