Friday, July 15, 2011

Cookies and Crumble

Food has inspired so many sayings. We take things with a grain of salt, abhor the one bad apple, watch the cookie crumble, but not the pot or it will never boil.

We recently had our third annual street party. It is a chance to celebrate the end of school and be introduced to all the new babies who were miraculously incubated under winter coats. After the bike rally, the soccer game, street hockey tournament, water balloon fights, face and nail painting, it is time to eat.

Last year I erred on the side of novelty, a chicken and rice salad with pistachios. It was rather good, but I wasn’t using my noodle. As Marc, my hairdresser once said of my hair colour, “It’s OK, but it’s not fun.” Oatmeal raisin cookies are fun.

To my mind the oatmeal and indeed the chocolate chip cookie should be crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. These were a pleasure to make not least because I got to use two of my favourite kitchen toys (the distaff equivalent of the power tool?), the Kitchen Aid and my Salter scale. I get an absurd amount of fun out of weighing ingredients then ensuring my cookies are of uniform size.

It takes a lot of careful little steps to get a great cookie: creaming the butter, but not too much, rotating the baking sheets half way through . . . all so little people will want to grab one in each hand, fuel for the next adventure, which they consume on the run.

I enjoy the mayhem, but after a couple of hours the bitter overwhelms the sweet. I have no children of my own. I retreat back to the kitchen. There’s no use crying over spilt milk, but I do.

The Master and the Mystery
A little catch up here. I finished Susan Hill’s The Various Haunts of Men, densely plotted, not all the threads tied off – just like life – and a surprisingly moving ending.

Of Hadji Murad: it breaks all of the writing class rules, “show don’t tell” particularly. Hey that’s the difference between the apprentice and, well Tolstoy. We know from the outset that Hadji Murad is doomed. The question is not what will happen, but how and why. The overall arc of the book is mirrored in the incidents that make it up. We are told the outcome of a scene, then how it played out and why. It’s a fascinating way to build dramatic tension. Tolstoy is Shakespearian (he’d hate that) in his ability to give us a 360 view of his characters. But in comparison with Hill’s mystery, it left me cold. Because even though it is full of felt life, and even the minor characters are fully fleshed, Tolstoy has no pity for them.