Lately, I’ve been thinking about the transitional weeks between seasons, and the feelings those transitions evoke. This year more than ever, I noticed summer’s late golden light ebbing away as fall began to arrive, and I watched as each and every leaf transformed until the whole landscape of the province appeared to be on fire. Things settled down and I grew accustomed to the intensity of the trees’ colours, as we all do. I took many beautiful days for granted.
But now the season is changing again. The other day, the heat went off in our apartment and remained off all night as the wind needled in through the cracks and crannies of the house. I slept in many layers, but when I woke up, I had the strange sensation — for just a moment — of being somewhere else. There was something nagging at me about the particular feeling of warmth coming just from my body, about seeing my breath unfurl before me, in a room now so cool that even the blankets covering me were cold to the touch.
That morning reminded me so strongly of the many uninsulated buildings I’d slept in during the cooler seasons in Asia. I remember being so frozen in Sapa, Vietnam that I didn’t shower at all over six days because I didn’t have the courage to be naked in the face of all that cold. I remember the hot phở in the markets that stung me back to life each morning, and the immensity of the fog as it settled in over the mercurial rice paddies of the Dao villages. These memories came back to me so unexpectedly and with such intensity that it was — it is — almost impossible for me to reconcile that they happened two years ago.
Winter is almost here. I feel more strongly than ever that time is slipping through my fingers. Each day there is some new item to add to the to-do list, some person I haven’t seen in far too long, an article or a poem I haven’t written, a loved one I haven’t called.
And yet, instead of doing any of these things, I bake. I relish rapping the eggs against the glass bowl and then cracking them apart with my hands. I use my fingers to coax the last of the molasses from the measuring cup, then I lick the sticky sugar from each digit. I breathe deeply when the house begins to smell of ginger and cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves. As I remove the cookies to cool on the rack, I boil some water for tea, which I’ll drink black.
I take a bite of the first cookie before it’s completely cool, and then I take another.
Ginger Molasses Cookies
Adapted from Tastefood. Makes 16-20 cookies.
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup molasses (Fancy- or cooking-grade; not blackstrap)
- Demerara, cane, or other coarse sugar for rolling
1. Combine flour, baking soda, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt in a bowl and mix well.
2. Beat butter and sugar together in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.
3. Add egg and molasses. Mix to combine well. Add dry ingredients and stir until fully combined.
4. Refrigerate batter for 1 hour or until dough is firm enough to handle.
5. Preheat oven to 375 F. Pour some demerara/cane/coarse sugar into a small bowl. In your hands, roll dough into 1″ balls, then toss bolls in sugar and arrange on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
6. Bake in oven until set and crinkled on top, 12-15 minutes. Remove and cool.
Until next time.