These memories of her mother are like pearls to her, are like burrs in her shoes. Precious, painful, precious, painful. She carries them tucked between her breasts, close to where she can sometimes see her heart pulse, just barely beneath the surface, everything beginning and ending there.
Michael is bringing his girlfriend. He told her that morning, already at the airport, already with bags and girl in hand. I need her, he said, and Nora's voice moved up one octave as she said, Sure, I understand. I'll set out towels for both of you, I'm just glad you'll be here.
Just then the pot of soup begins to boil and flecks of carrots stick near the rim. Nora drops her half eaten apple on the table, reaching back to keep it from rolling off the edge. She removes the lid and a thick cloud of steam coats her face, opens her pores, and she breathes in garlic, onion, fresh thyme. Her vegetables are so soft that they break at the touch of her spoon, and she smashes a purple potato against the stainless steel, its pulpy flesh like soft butter, its skin still tough. She could stand and stir this soup for the rest of the afternoon.
After a long night of traveling through the Colorado mountains, Michael, Nora and Elizabeth arrived at a small, clapboard house in Denver. A rusted car occupied the driveway, and Elizabeth shook her head as she pulled Michael away from the rusted rim. The door opened and a woman with long gray hair, compact freckled limbs and a smile wide enough to devour Elizabeth's frown welcomed them in.
One bowl for you, one bowl for you, and for Mom, a bowl too. She put a loaf of bread on the table, and the four of them sat and dipped and tore and dipped and ate and smiled and laughed and reached and touched and slurped until each bowl was empty, empty two or three times over. Later that winter, Nora and Aunt Helen made the same soup, together. They sat down, just Michael and Nora, and ate, bowl after bowl. Now every time Michael returns, Nora makes a pot of soup, adding a new vegetable, pouring a new bowls. Tonight there will be three again. Nora, Michael, and this damn girl.
Now I will divulge a bit of my quirkiness. Over the past weekend, my class was assigned to read a short story by Herman Melville entitled "Bartleby". This classic tale contains a delightful little boy nicknamed Ginger Nut, who runs a variety of errands for the older, more established men that work in the law office. One of his most important errands is picking up ginger cakes to satisfy the bellies of his employers.
When I read the story and imagined Ginger Nut running out into the city streets to carefully select a ginger flavored snack, I knew I had to make some of my own.
This recipe was originally for Blondies, but in my opinion the final product is much more like cake than a brownie. I added crystallized ginger and finely chopped cashews to the batter, and when I pulled out my very own ginger cake from the oven...I was more than pleased.
I bashfully brought my cake to my fellow TA and lead professor on Monday, and I was delighted that they didn't think I was completely wacky. In fact, I think they liked their gift quite a bit.
*adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies
9 TBSP unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp coarse salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cashews
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a buttered 8-inch square baking pan with foil, allowing a 2-inch overhang. Butter lining and set pan aside.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix your butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until well combined. Slowly add in your flour mixture, and mix, scraping down sides of bowl, until fully incorporated. Fold in your ginger and your nuts.
3. Pour your batter into you prepared pan, sprinkle with additional nuts, if desired, and bake in your preheated oven for 30-40 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs). Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes, lift out, and allow to cool on wire rack before cutting into squares.
Anecdotes and Apple Cores