Afterward, late, when he was alone and the fire of mesquite wood was dying, it came to him that he should take on the task of dispensing these interesting, nay, vital facts gleaned from the intelligence reports and the general press. For instance, the struggles going on at the top levels of the Mexican Army. If people had true knowledge of the world perhaps they would not take up arms and so perhaps he can be an aggregator of information from distant places and then the world would be a more peaceful place. He had been perfectly serious. That illusion had lasted from age forty-nine to age sixty-five. 
     And then he had come to think that what people needed, at bottom, was not only information but tales of the remote, the mysterious, dressed up as hard information. And he, like a runner, immobile in his smeared printing apron bringing it to them. Then the listeners would for a small space of time drift away into a healing place like curative waters. -Paulette Jiles (The News of the World)
     There was a moment there when I wasn’t sure that I would return to this space. I always had intended to: the blog schedule had been drafted, the photos uploaded, the quotes selected…Everything was basically ready; all I needed was time and, I suppose, both the willpower and something to say. I wouldn’t even say that I lacked those things, exactly. It was more that events–a cold; the horrible, horrible election; the mad desire to read everything I could to try to make sense of the election; a fall, which led to a mild head injury (the beagle will one day kill me, of that I am certain) that made me call my 9-1-1 for the first time ever in my 33 years (you could be dying, and 9-1-1 operators will not give you a single iota of medical advice; even better, if you hesitate when they ask if you want an ambulance to come to your house–how do they know you haven’t lost consciousness?–they will hang up on you); houseguests, holidays and job applications–all conspired to throw me off track. 
      Plus, these days I haven’t been feeling terribly kindly towards to the internet. The very thing that was supposed to democratize the word in a way that could be rivaled only by the rise of the printing press had instead somehow come to undercut and destabilize our reality.  I wondered if somehow we had been too eager to let non-experts and enthusiasts into our homes; after all, if I had a medical problem, would I go to a quack or would I go to a doctor? The answer should be obvious. And it’s not that I don’t believe that the internet doesn’t have good, substantive things to offer. I just think that my academic side, a side that somebody once told me was my dominant side in that I wanted to intellectualize things rather than to feel them, has increasingly been bothered by the lack of rigor that you find online, from food blogs that either purport to give nutritional advice or essentially act as advertisements for food companies to the articles that show journalists eagerly devouring Trump’s latest tweet. Given the sudden attention that is being paid to tweets alone, you have to wonder if the rise of social media, the proliferation of digital cameras and the ease with which we can like any snappy saying or overly styled photo have ultimately done us and our “democracy” any favors. I haven’t been a member of Facebook for years, but I’ve long held the belief that it was good only when it could be used to tell you if your crush in a crowded lecture on was single or not or to get an assignment that you missed if you had been absent from class. 
      But to return to the idea with which I began this post, I decided that to give up on blogging now would be to admit defeat, to take away a personal pleasure and to remove myself from the one online platform from which I could potentially make a difference and persuade somebody of something–even if that something is as inconsequential as making fresh pasta for dinner or realizing that phyllo just isn’t that difficult to work with. If, along the way, I, as somebody who has lived in Putin’s Russia, manages to convince a reader that Putin’s and Trump’s bromance is something worth fearing, rather than celebrating, then I would consider that a job well done. Writing, after all, is meant to persuade, to challenge and to inform. Certainly, I myself am no expert, only an enthusiast at best. I don’t believe, however, that I have ever professed to be the former (except for on topics relating to my PhD and, yes, seven years of toil do give you that right) and, if I have spoken authoritatively on any subject, I have backed it up with the necessary support. 
        On that note, as this is my first post in some time and I wanted to accomplish as much as possible (possibly too much, but alas), I’ve decided not only to provide you with a list of links worth reading, but also a recipe worth making for the holidays. The recipe, which hails from Dorie’s Cookies, is my new favorite cookie, especially if you, like me, are a lover of all things spicy and made darkly rich by molasses. I’m not at all a fan of the word “moreish,” as it strikes my American ear as a little silly, but if ever I was to use the word, it would be in relation t these cookies, which ingeniously combine cocoa powder, molasses, light brown sugar, bittersweet chocolate and candied ginger. You will find the recipe below. For now, links of my recent favorite reads: 
Yes, you can cook real Chinese food at home. 
The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife and proof that conmen are everywhere. 
A cartoon that a dear friend sent on election night as the outcome was becoming more and more clear. 
Dissecting the election (if you can still stand to think about it): from why and where HRC fell short to the potentially faithless electors (should we hope?). Also, the best article that I read in the wake of election: HRC and the populist revolt
Coffee, the New Mexican way. 
It may be that the Republican Party did not implode in the spectacular way that many democrats believed it would, but Fox News certainly did and the phoenix rising out of its ashes was none other than Megyn Kelly
I’ve been dying to read Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, but between work and cookie baking madness, haven’t yet managed to do so. This article will have to do for now. 
A quick study of essential Japanese ingredients
Handy Academic apps, courtesy of PhD comics (as a sign of my age, I recently learned what “on fleek” means).
A few nights ago, I read this before going to bed and had horrible nightmares of a world like an amusement park with cameras and posing, preening children everywhere. 
When the Greek and I were driving to Virginia in late October, we were listening to “Snap Judgment” on NPR. Let’s just say that this particular account stuck and not because it was a warm and fuzzy tale of a great camping adventure. Prepare to be frightened. 
A Midwestern Thanksgiving, or why Amy Thielen is one of the best food writers in America. 
The university and the fight over the syllabus
Even though ’tis the season for cookies and buche de noel, if you are a lover of cake, hopefully you didn’t miss Food52’s Fall Cookbook Cake Parade, as there were some keepers! Plus, we should all be doing our part to #MakeAmericaBakeAgain (or #BakeAmericaGreatAgain or #BakeAmericaCakeAgain). Take your pick.
From the Greek, a bit of sugary culinary science
Seven one-pot dinners for this cold winter days. 
One of my favorite cookbooks of the year was undoubtedly the SQIRL cookbook. A few weeks ago, for a Friendsgiving dinner, we made the Braised Duck Legs and the Dill Creme Fraiche Spaetzle. Was it as painstaking as this article made it out to be? Kind of, but not really. Does it show that there is more to Californian cuisine, which is having a moment (among many moments), than David Chang’s famous complaint about figs on plate? Absolutely. 
For those on the east coast, a Washington DC dining guide
And, now, as a palate cleanser: cookies!

Double Ginger Molasses Cookies 
Adapted, ever so slightly, from Dorie’s Cookies

2 1/4 cups (306 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons/6 ounces/170 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (67 grams) light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120 ml) unsulphered molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup (55 grams) crystallized ginger, chopped (the ginger should be on the softer side, which means if yours isn’t, steam it for a few minutes, anywhere from 3-5, before using it)
7 ounces (200 grams) bittersweet chocolate (either chips or roughly chopped)
Turbinado sugar, for rolling

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, spices, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

Either in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together on medium-low speed, mixing for at least 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl as needed and mix until fully blended. Add the yolk  and beat for one minute, then add both the molasses and vanilla; mix until smooth and then turn the mixer off.

Add the dry ingredients all at once and pulse a few times to combine (this is to avoid the risk of having flour go all over the place). Once this risk passes, mix the dough on low speed until the flour is almost but not entirely incorporated. Fold in the crystallized ginger and bittersweet chocolate, also folding in any remaining streaks of flour. When the flour is fully mixed in and the chocolate and ginger evenly distributed, gather the dough into a ball, flatten it and wrap it in plastic. Place it in the fridge for at least 2 hours or up to three days.

Once the dough has rested and been chilled, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 350 F. Butter regular-sized muffin tins or line baking sheets with parchment or silpats. Set aside your baking apparatus of choice.

To shape the cookies, you can use either a medium ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoonful of dough for each cookie. If you’re using muffin tins (I used both methods), find a glass or jar that will fit into the tins and can be used to flatten the dough; if you don’t have a glass that will fit all the way in, you could also just push down on the center of the ball of dough with your thumb and then press down on the sides to push the dough towards the sides of the muffin cup. If using baking sheets, press the ball of dough with your hand to flatten the cookie to about 1/2-inch thick.

For each cookie, mold a scoop or spoonful of dough into a ball between your palms, roll it in the sugar to coat it and then place it in the muffin cup or on the prepared baking sheets. If using muffin tins, flatten the cookie as described in the paragraph above; if using baking sheets, leave two inches between each ball of dough and flatten with your palm.

Bake the cookies for 13 minutes, rotating the tins or sheets top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. When done, the cookies will be set around the edges and softer in the center. Transfer the tins or sheets to a rack and let them rest for 15 minutes before unmolding them from the tins or moving them from the baking sheets. If baking in batches, wait until your muffin tins or baking sheets are cool before preparing the next batch.

Dorie says that the cookies will keep for up to 4 days once baked, although I think they will keep for a little longer, especially now that it’s downright cold in the house. She also says that the cookies can be shaped and frozen for up to 2 months; if you opt to freeze your pre-formed cookie dough, let the cookies sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before baking them.

6 thoughts on “Food for Thought (and a Cookie Recipe, too)

  1. Brava!! I too am wondering if I will ever return to the blog. It has been months since I posted. I think I will, but maybe not before the maelstrom of moving has passed. Your fall! I am so sorry! Are you okay?! There are so many good links here that I am going to keep your post open and feast on them slowly, in my spare and sacred moments of not playing trains or making sippy cups of milk:) So much love to you, and Merry Christmas!

  2. Hello! I am sorry for being a delinquent responder to comments! Between getting everything ready for PA and then the holiday rush (hope yours was a good one!), I really haven't been here all that much–despite my best intentions; that said, I think I'm going to aim for 1 post per week in this newest of years. Fingers crossed! And I think it's only reasonable that you haven't blogged lately; moves are hard and perhaps once you're settled, you'll feel inspired by your new surroundings….

    As for my fall, don't worry; it was actually the clumsiest of things on my part: a barking beagle, my attempt to corral her into the bathroom by the front door, a lack of peripheral vision due to glasses and, suddenly, the hard feeling of wood meeting the top of my head. I experienced a weird numbness, which both freaked me out (much like giving blood does) and made me want to call 911 for a medical opinion, one that, obviously, they weren't able to give. You live, you learn, but I am fine…no permanent damage, in any case!

    As for the links, I'm glad you enjoyed them! I hope they made a nice accompaniment to playing trains with the cutie pie and filling up sippy cups of milk (and hopefully making some coffee or tea for yourself)! Lots of love to you and yours in the New Year! x

  3. Yes!! I had it very much on my mind, as one of my Christmas presents for the Greek was a Chemex; it seemed only appropriate to buy coffee for it, too, so I ordered a bag of New Mexican coffee. I will be eternally grateful to you for introducing it to me. I'm thinking that, when I finally write my post on New Mexico from the road trip in 2015 (ahh, the shame!), I will play around with recipe for a coffee-flavored roll-up cake and use New Mexico pinon coffee. Hopefully, the results will be good!

  4. These are the cookies I most wanted to make from that book! Very exciting. Although I think I'd omit the chocolate chips because I so dislike mixing chocolate with other flavors. Does the cacao powder give a chocolatey flavor too? I might also omit that…

  5. I guess there is a reason we are friends. 🙂 These were definitely my favorite of the 4 (5?) cookies I made from the book, although the Pumpkin Spice Jammers (and her jammers, which I've made before, but not this year) are also really wonderful.

    I like the addition of the chocolate chips; the cookies are cakey enough (Kostas said they reminded him of lebkuchen more than of ginger snaps) that the chocolate chips aren't terribly noticeable…And the cocoa powder, if anything, just acts as another spice, which, when mixed with the other spices, isn't at all dominant; if anything, since it's unsweetened, it just gives the cookies a hint of bitterness. In the original recipe, she suggested adding instant espresso powder as well, which I didn't do (the cocoa seemed enough; plus, I didn't have any in the cupboard), but I guess you could substitute that for the cocoa if you are worried about a chocolate flavor. 🙂

    They're definitely delicious, dangerously so, but more spicy than sweet, which I like.

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