Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jagged Little Cookies

I don’t like to complain. Given a choice, I prefer to vent, punctuate that with sobbing, and finish it off with a fine whine. But that’s just me. Shortly before Christmas my mother fell and broke both her wrists. Since then my time has been almost entirely occupied with hospital visits, doctors’ appointments and channelling my inner Martha Stewart as I give her condo a needed makeover.

My mother is an enthusiastic consumer of sweets as I think I’ve mentioned. When she emerged from her post-operative haze I asked her what cookie she’d like me to make her, even though I already knew. Sure enough, she said “those little ones where you put the jam in the middle."

Thimble cookies, these are labour intensive little gems. You make basic cookie dough into tablespoon balls, roll those in beaten egg white, then in finely chopped nuts and make small impression in each – with a thimble if you are a stickler for tradition, your thumb or the end of wooden spoon. After baking, while still warm, you deepen the indent and fill it with the jam of your choice. The ones pictured here are apricot and raspberry.

My mum’s convalescence has included these, flourless peanut butter cookie chocolate sandwiches and banana raisin muffins. The shared features are they are all sweet, portable and safely stowed in a bedside drawer.

Like Dolittle’s Push-Me-Pull-You, my mother and I are bound together and straining against each other. She craved daily visits to be sure I hadn’t been carried off by a serial killer. A glimpse was enough, after that I could, as she so succinctly put it, “sling my hook” – translation for non-Anglos and the not nautical, b----r off or set sail. Jolly good.

Once upon a time she read me books like Three Men in A Boat and Wind in the Willows and we laughed ‘til our sides hurt. She wrapped Christmas presents with the care of an artist –I remember one box made to look like a house, complete with chimney, cotton wool snow and reindeer foot prints on the roof. Last week she’d been feeling particularly bad and was eager to see me off. On our way to the elevator another patient asked her if she was better? She said, yes, now that she had seen her daughter, because I’m her aspirin (and a pill?). People change, cookies crumble, I’ll take my compliments where I can get them.

Reading as refuge
I can’t believe I’m already within one slim volume of latest of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series. They have been a perfect refuge over the last months. Not that they offer a world vision where justice is done; often the best Montalbano can do is create a stopgap against the remorseless working out of things and "crush melancholy's grape" behind clenched teeth. Perhaps strangely, I find solace in Camilleri’s complex and unflinching view from Montalbano’s veranda overlooking the sea.