Fallen leaves lying on the grass in the November sun bring more happiness than the daffodils. – Cyril Connolly
I simply need some comfort today. We all do.
This election has left me drained, emotionally and physically. I’m shaken to my very core, chilled to my bones, and every cliché and platitude in between. Battered and bruised. I mourn for my country and the divisive debate this campaign has engendered and I strive to understand what happened.
We are deep into November and, suddenly, winter has come. And with it, suddenly, the hotel slides into low season. From a fully-booked hotel to a mere handful of rooms, from a breakfast room bustling with movement, vibrating with voices, to a lone businessman quietly sipping coffee in the warmth of the blazing fire as darkness of early morning creeps in from outside, later a few couples spread across the room as whispered conversations break the silence in the calm of a winter morning. The mood is profound, a mood of calm and quiet restraint. It is certainly relaxing, and we, the entire team, can slip into another mode of work and day-to-day. We can take care of other business like defrosting the freezer and storing away fans and deep cleaning the kitchen. We can begin to clear the rooms in the annex for renovation, our big winter project. We can take a bit of time off and rest.
And, as you know, I’ve written a cookbook. This week I developed and tested the last recipe, finalized my text, shortened some rather wordy headnotes, and made the last corrections. Only one or two more things to add. I know that eventually the entire manuscript will come back for corrections, possibly some rewrites, but as I finish assembling the pages into documents ready to send to my editor, I do feel a sense of relief wash over me (and a bit of worry; it is something like sending off one’s baby to college), knowing that for at least a few weeks I can stop thinking about it.
As the weeks and months flew by, as I served breakfasts, washed dishes, checked rooms, as I prepared and tasted risotto and focaccia and vinaigrette and financiers, as I zipped off an article for Fine Cooking magazine, as I sat at the computer surrounded by teetering mountains of cookbooks, pens and pencils and pieces of paper threatening to flutter away and disappear under my desk, I’ve been energized by two things.
My recipe testers who joyously, tirelessly, enthusiastically tested recipes for me day after day, leaving exuberant notes for me on Facebook, helping me improve my recipes, giving me ideas for changes, variations, and entirely new recipes. My testers kept me going and cheered me on and made me feel creative and brilliant! I have felt very lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful and talented friends. This has energized me these months when I needed strength.
The election has carried me along with as much enthusiasm and determination. Putting a woman in the White House, one who was eminently qualified, one whose life works showed her to be extremely compassionate, was thrilling! I admit that it distracted me quite a bit from my work, but it was so important to me to fight what the other candidate represented, what I’ve always been taught was wrong, hate, division, ignorance, and to work for everything I believed in, fairness, equality, compassion, community. Hours in the breakfast room and kitchen, hours at the computer, dashing to the store or the kitchen when needed were broken up by scrolling through the news and friends’ Facebook and Twitter feeds. We would finally have a woman President and one who so deserved our support and all of the ardor and passion she inspired.
Yet as autumn died down and the high season with it, as we switched on the heat and settled in to shorter days, as my book wound down and I prepared to gather up the pages and send in the manuscript, this happened. We lost. We all lost. I need to rest, to find my courage and strength again, my positive vision of the world.
Great swathes of leaves tinged gold and russet lie matted and forlorn in the gutters and gathered round the trees, scattered across the courtyard like the last vestiges of a marriage once the echoes of laughter have died away. Winter is ushered in with rain and smoky skies the color of dull pearls and I am saddened to think that we will never get snow, not in this part of the world. The occasional ray of sunshine filters through the clouds drawing my eyes from the keyboard to the window and I wonder if it is hope. But just for the moment, I do not feel it.
And I thought that today we all needed comfort, we all needed cookies.
- 12 tablespoons (175 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (95 grams) molasses or treacle
- 1½ cups (200 grams) flour
- ¼ cup (25 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Gently rounded ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 large egg
- Melt the butter, sugar and molasses in a small saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth, stirring to keep the sugar from burning and the whole homogenous. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit.
- Stir the flour, cocoa powder, spices, salt and baking soda together.
- In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg then, continuing to beat with a wooden spoon or whisk, gradually add the warm butter/sugar/molasses mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until smooth.
- Add the flour/spice mixture to the liquid mixture and stir together until blended and smooth. The batter will be wet.
- Allow the batter to sit for about half an hour or so to thicken a bit.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
- Drop tablespoons of the batter onto a baking sheet leaving 1 - 2 inches between each mound to allow for spreading. Bake each batch for 10 - 12 minutes until puffed and beginning to darken; they will appear set but will still be soft.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest on the cookie sheets for about 30 seconds to 1 minute to firm up slightly before carefully sliding a metal spatula under each cookie and lifting off. Allow to cool completely on cooling racks.