On my 30th birthday, my father asked me to shave his head.
He had just started a round of chemo and was beginning to lose his hair, fine tufts of fine hair that were beginning to come out in clumps and clog the drain. He figured he would head the eventuality of baldness off at the pass and just shave his head to see what kind of egg he would be dealing with.
He carried the stool out to my parent’s deck in Peachtree City, Georgia. They lived at the very back of a wooded cul-de-sac, cut through with golf cart paths. It was March, and fairly warm. He had already sharpened and oiled the clippers and draped an old towel over his clothes.
He turned around to look expectantly at me as he walked through the screen door.
I told him no. I couldn’t do it.
So now, instead of my 30th birthday being the day that I shaved my father’s head, it’s the day I refused to shave his head. I can still see my stricken look reflected in his eyes. He was trying to make the best of a situation, and I was not quite able to ride shotgun for that.
For many people around me, the holidays seem like that this year. Like me with my dad and his shaved head, many people are trying to be cheery and go along for the ride, but cannot quite get there. Behind their eyes I can see the despair and anguish and quick darting glances, looking for an escape hatch. Literally. They have in their looks the knowing of a deeper, harder, longer road ahead, no matter how sparkly the tinsel or bright the lights.
All things being equal, and with my personal year of hell and death in 2013 being the high bar for awful, this year has not been terrible for me. I fell in love, worked hard enough and saved enough pennies to send my kid to France, and started a new business cooking for people. I have had a couple parties with really wonderful people, and I will ring in the new year with one of my oldest friends and his wonderful wife and kid(s). On an individual level, things have been okay.
Nationally and internationally, the world is folding in on itself. Implosion isn’t the right word for this descent into hell that humanity is experiencing. Hate crimes, genocide. Violence and fear.
Things feel desperate and washed out at the same time. If the water is rising but there are no boats and you can’t swim, what the hell are you supposed to do?
I think the only thing for me is to alternate between taking care of myself by turning off the internet and social media so that I can read, write, and engage with myself and welcoming people into my home (or, in the spirit of the crappy dinner party, popping in to theirs).
After the holidays, I have Galentine’s Day on the horizon in February, but in the meantime I have started to line my nest with comforting food-type things. I baked cookies and caught up with my friend Terri at her house last week, and this week I have been sipping Golden Milk and making biscotti.
I know, I know: the last thing people need is another holiday cookie. I prefer to think of this as Winter Breakfast.
This biscotti recipe has infinite variations and is very, very forgiving. It takes a little over an hour, most of which is baking, but the flavors just get better as they sit, so make a double or triple batch and let them sit on the counter for whenever you want a snack.
As I am overly fond of rosemary, I have used it liberally. Feel free to modify any and all amounts to your taste; suggestions are listed below the recipe.
Make sure and take good care of yourself and keep the connections to your people strong; ask for and offer help. Notice when someone isn’t doing well and make some sort of gesture to lighten their day.
And if all else fails, feed them biscotti.
Biscotti With Rosemary, Lemon, and Cherry
1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 spring rosemary, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup dried cherries chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine flours, salt, and baking powder, rosemary, and lemon zest and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine sugars, olive oil, and eggs and mix thoroughly. Use a spatula to add flour, completely incorporating both mixtures.
Add cherries and mix.
Divide dough into two and place on parchment paper. Shape into six-inch logs that are about three inches wide.
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until firm and golden brown.
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees.
Using a serrated knife, slice each log into one-inch slices. Place sliced side down on the parchment paper and bake again until fully crisped, turning over once, for a total of about 20 minutes – maybe more. Some days I slice the biscotti too thick and it takes longer, or I don’t cook them enough the first time and it takes longer. You are looking for a dry texture. They will continue to dry out as they cool.
Let cool thoroughly. Store in airtight container, or give away. You can’t really go wrong.
- Add ginger, cinnamon, and chopped chocolate for gingerbread/chocolate biscotti.
- Orange zest and cranberries (and maybe toasted chopped walnuts) are very festive.
- Dried blueberry, lemon zest, and fresh chopped thyme are also ridiculously delicious.
- No need to use best-quality olive oil.
Note: Many claim that this will cure what ails you. Improved digestion, decreased inflammation, and improved sleep are just three of the many touted benefits. I find it warming and comforting and delicious. Whatever is good for me is a bonus.
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
pinch black pepper
2 cups milk of your choice
agave, to taste
For best results, place all ingredients (except agave) in a blender and blend until smooth. Place this mixture in a pot and heat, adding agave to taste.
- Coconut milk is often suggested for its benefits. Whatever you choose, use the unsweetened variety.
- You can also use fresh ginger and turmeric instead, but powdered is a fine substitute.