Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Favourite time of day

When I was in school and all through junior college, my mother used to make me strictly adhere to a bedtime. By 9:15 I was to be tucked in and by 9:30 all lights were switched off. Almost always absorbed in some fascinating book, I'd beg heartrendingly for five minutes more which God bless her, she'd always grant. Most days those five minutes would suffice- except for really absorbing books which I would then carry to the bathroom and read there with a towel stuffed under the door to hide the line of light visible from outside. But most days I'd curl up contentedly in bed and dream till I slept off.
Those ten minutes of bliss were and always have been my favourite part of the day. Dreams are so wasted on sleep. However vivid they were, when you wake up all you're left with is disappointment, that those images that seemed so real in your sleep, turn so pale and lifeless in harsh daylight. Its like some horrible art thief replaced the van Gogh in your mind with a faded watercolour. But dreaming when you're awake- thats a whole new picture. You get to pick your fantasies and live then snuggled cosily in a warm bed, while drifting off comfortably to sleep.
Each night I would pick my fantasy, I could be a Spanish princess or a WWII nurse or a busy careerwoman. I could decorate dream homes, travel around the world, own and raise hundreds of dogs. I could be an Ayn Rand heroine staring at New York's skyline or Elizabeth Bennet turning down Mr. Darcy. If I was bored of fantasies revolving around me (and this happened, about once in a blue moon) I would live out all my favourite "if only" moments. If only Scarlett had realized she loved Rhett earlier, if only Tess hadn't been seduced by Alec, or Angel had found the letter she wrote him, if only Elfride Swancourt had lived. In all my stories they always had happy endings (Except in Elfride's case where I wasn't really sure what would have been a happy ending. I don't think Hardy himself knew, which is why he killed her off in the first place) Each morning when class got boring, I'd plan what I would dream about that night.
Since coming here, I don't have a bedtime anymore, I only sleep when utterly exhausted, leaving scant time for dreaming. More often than not, I fall asleep watching a sitcom or cramming desperately for a quiz. All this has left my quite dream-starved, and now as I look back, it has made my life considerably poorer. After all, isn't it like your very own Neverland, where you always stay young and if the ending isn't happy, it just means the story isn't over yet. So now I shall go to bed, turn off the lights, snuggle cosily under my warm covers and in my Neverland, go wherever the night takes me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The perfect Cookie

This time when I was home, I hadn't really intended to do any baking, having truckloads to mug. But I'd forgotten N's birthday and the only way I could thing of making it up to her was by baking her a batch of "I'm sorry" cookies. I decided to become daring and create my own recipe. Perhaps it was the mood that seized me, I felt I simply couldn't go wrong. The first thing I espied on entering the kitchen was a pot of sparkling honey. I promptly appropriated it for my purpose. I beat together butter and sugar until the mixture became wonderfully light and fluffy and then poured in a stream of golden honey. As the flavours fused, I could feel further inspiration rising. Gazing around the kitchen I found freshly powdered dried ginger, an intensely spicy, slightly bitter scent that paired perfectly with the floral sweetness of the honey. In it went after a delicate shower of whole wheat flour. The result was a lovely buttery dough that simply begged to be kneaded.
The oven reddened in anticipation as I shaped plump little spheres and rolled them in almond slivers. I jealously watched over the cookies as they cracked open in the oven's heat, revealing delicate yellow honeycombs under a honey brown crust. As the almond slivers baked to a crisp brown I opened the oven and took them out. The scent filled the air and pervaded the entire house. While baking always smells good, this scent was extraordinary. Out they came aided by my eager fork and I set them out to cool and harden. Hot from the oven, they were wonderfully cakey and they began to harden as they cooled. Two batches later, everyone in the house was asking for a taste but I had managed to fill a carefully guarded box for N.
My greatest problem when it comes to baking cookies is that sometimes I simply forget they're in the oven. My concentration this time held out till the very last batch, when distracted by an interesting conversation I totally forgot until a rich scent of roasting ginger filled my nostrils. Then I ran to the kitchen to find my final batch deeply browned and certainly not giftbox worthy, but still safe. Another minute and they would have been inedible.
Hours later, I returned to the now cooled oven and prised out a blackened cookie. I inhaled as I bit in and the flavour hit me full force. It was a rich buttery, spicy, sweet scent condensed in one intense mouthful. The flavours had time to settle and fuse and the product was enchanting.
None of the cookies survived for me to photograph, they all vanished mysteriously during the night. I will be making these again really soon though, the very next time I go home. Now, if I could only remember the proportions...