I was going to blog on Friday but given the events of that terrible day, writing about food didn't feel right. I considered writing a post about my feelings on the various issues that have been connected to the subject of school violence. Yet it felt so forced: "gun control...and cookies."
I do have to say, though, that there is one thing that did annoy me about the media and social media coverage of the event, and that is the well-meaning reference to the victim as 'little angels.'
People, these were kids, not angels. I'm not a mom, but I can tell you--I know lots of kids I like very much and NONE of them are angels.
Kids, even six-year-olds, are complex, thinking individuals. Yes, there is something about children that is naive and unshaped by culture that is wonderful--and can be annoying or terrible, given how it manifests itself--but children are NOT angels.
Calling the victims angels reminds me of what I always liked least about Victorian literature--those perfect little girls like Little Eva and Little Nell who you just know are going to bite the dust of some vague, wasting illness within three paragraphs of meeting them. A 'little angel's' death is inevitable--they are just too good for this world to live. And there was nothing inevitable about the death of these all-too-real children.
The coverage I liked best came from NPR. If you want a good read, I strongly suggest you read this, which is a biography of the some of the victims of the shooter. If nothing else, it is a reminder of how strong even a very young child's personality can be, like Emily Parker, who is described as "bright, creative and always willing to try new things, except food." Almost immediately, you can picture the girl in your head--the frustrating kind of kid who is willing to help PREPARE the food and wants to know why it is made the way it is made, but won't eat anything but Wonder Bread, Skippy creamy peanut butter, and grape jelly day after day.
However, even when things are rough it's nice to go back in time and try some old favorites. I'll wager if you asked someone what his or her favorite cookie might be, the response won't be 'molasses.' Molasses is kind of a 'grandma' cookie flavor, and another interesting NPR piece on molasses cookies revealed that even an attempt to recreate an early 20th century molasses cookie was not pleasing to our 21st century taste buds, because our preferences for sweetness over spice have changed so much. But because we cling to traditions--even if they are not our own traditions, for I never ate a molasses cookie until I was an adult--I decided to make them this holidays season. I loved them, as did the (adult) recipients, but some adventurous kids would like them as well.
I strongly advise using shortening for these cookies, as molasses cookies do tend to spread. These are great for holiday cookie baskets, because they are easy to veganize. Make one batch for the vegans on your list, another for everyone else. I made two batches with eggs, one with flaxseed, and there was no discernible difference between the two versions.
I would like to say that this is the type of cookie that young Emily would have liked, but I doubt it. It is a strongly flavored, rich-tasting cookie and from her description, she strikes me as more of a sugar cookie or Oreo kind of girl. But perhaps with time, she may have learned to appreciate molasses cookies. We will never know.
3/4 cup vegetable shortening (I used Earth Balance Shortening)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 beaten egg or 1 tablespoon flaxseed and three tablespoons of water
1/4 cup mild, unsulfured molasses
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspons salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
White, granulated sugar for rolling
1. Using a hand or stand mixer, mix the shortening, sugar, egg (or egg substitute), and molasses together.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.
3. Incorporate the wet and dry mixtures. Chill overnight.
4. Scoop mixture out into balls, rolling in white granulated sugar before putting them on parchment-lined baking sheets approximately 2 inches apart (cookies will spread somewhat). Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 375F.
5. Remove from oven when cookies start to 'crack' and 'crinkle.'
|That's the dog's dish on the floor. And yes, she did get a cookie that I ACCIDENTALLY dropped on the floor.|