Monday, December 04, 2006

Butter, sugar, coffee, beer, snails, eggnog & first & second kisses

From mid-November to mid-January, Jim and I stop putting milk in our coffee and put eggnog instead. If eggnog was available year around, we would do it year around, but I’m glad it isn’t because I like the specialness of seasonal things.

I set out about acquiring a taste for coffee when I was 17 and living in Paris. I thought it de rigueur. I worked my way up to it with cafes au lait, standing at the counters of bars in Spain and Portugal and Italy and eating a pastry for breakfast along with a big milky bowl of coffee. But by fall I deemed it time to graduate to pure, gnarly espresso. I wonder now how well I controlled the blanche of bitterness that must have been written all over my face as I forced it down! But I did it. And when I would go each afternoon to pick up fierce Antoine from school, I would wait at the cafe opposite with my little cup of bitterness. Antoine was six and a tyrant. He cheated horribly at marbles and liked escargot so much he always wanted it for a snack after school.

I had earlier made myself acquire a taste for alcohol with the same sort of conscientiousness as coffee. When I was 14 my family moved from Italy to Belgium. My older brother had gone ahead of us so he could start the football season, so he already knew everyone at the tiny American school by the time the rest of us arrived. In fact, I think he had already been kicked off the football team for falling through the ceiling while hiding out in it to smoke. Anyway, shortly after our arrival, he took me “downtown” with him. The Americans in Brussels lived in farflung outlying neighborhoods with names like Kraainem and Sterrebeek and Terveuren, and the older kids would meet up downtown most weekend nights in one of two or three bars, to drink beer and dance to songs like “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds, which was then, ulp, new! (Did I mention I am turning 35 in a few weeks? EGAD!)

The first time Alex brought me down there I was cajoled into buying a bottle of some kind of booze, I don’t remember what, only that it was for highschool seniors. I’m sure I didn’t drink more than a sip. We younger girls drank beer with grenadine in it to make it sweet and pink! Isn’t that cute (or not!) The other thing we did was buy bottles of cheap wine and take them up to the 7th floor of a particular parking structure. The way we referred to it as “The Seventh Floor” made it sound like a bar or something, but it was just a parking structure. There, the night before we moved back to the States I had my second-ever kiss, after a disgusted hiatus of 2+ years from kissing after the first one from the Italian-orphan-drummer with the rat’s tail in the back of his hair (ah, 1984!). This kiss was much more agreeable. I’d had a crush on the boy for a year -- I just remembered he was a drummer too! My first two kisses were drummers. Huh. -- and it was a kind of torture to finally kiss him and then get on a plane the next day for California.

Ah, my dissolute youth! Actually, not. I was a good kid. I started 10th grade in Orange County in 1987, and though I’m sure drugs must have been swirling like a tornado all around me, I never even got so much as a glimpse of them. My good-girl aura prevented me ever being offered anything. Ever. Weird now that I think of it. Drugs were not, however, so invisible to my brother, who got kicked off the new football team too, got a mohawk, and dropped out of school. (He is now very successful, I feel compelled to add.) So that’s the history of my forced taste-acquisition of coffee and beer!

In summation: put eggnog in your coffee; do not feed snails to six-year-olds; some drummers are gross kissers but not all; and do NOT put grenadine in your beer (unless you’re a 14-year-old girl and it’s 1986).

And the holiday baking spree continues. Yesterday several more sticks of butter were rendered into deliciousness. Those are cardamom-orange mini cupcakes pictured above (they'll be cuter when they're frosted, but wow, they taste good) and these are coconut-cream filled macaroons, from Martha.

Coconut-cream-filled Macaroons

for the cookie:
3 c unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 c gran. sugar
1 tbsp flour
2 lrg egg whites
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp melted butter
1/8 tsp coarse salt

for filling:
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp cream of coconut (this can sometimes be found at the supermarket with the dacquiri mixers and such)
1/4 c veg shortening
3/4 c powdered sugar
1 tsp coconut extract

1. Make cookie mixture: Stir together coconut, sugar, flour, egg whites, butter, extract, and salt. Refrigerate, covered, at least one hour, or overnight.
2. Preheat over to 325. For heaping tsps of dough into balls and gently flatten onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake about 10 minutes, until edges start to turn golden. Cool completely.
3. Make filling: Cream butter, coco cream, shortening together. Add powdered sugar and extract and beat until fluffy and pale, 2-3 minutes.
4. Assemble. Use a heaping tsp of filling per sandwich. Eat them all immediately and swoon in a sugar stupor for the rest of the day. Or, share.

I'm a coconut fan. I often used to choose coconut cakes or pies for my birthday, and that worked out well for my mother because it's easy to make a coconut cake look Christmasy, and I'm a Christmas baby (almost). My sweet husband has made my last couple of birthday cakes. He usually wants pie or cheesecake for his birthday. I realize I seem fixated on sweets these days, but it's December. December is for sugar and butter. And coconut. And let us not forget. . . chocolate.

(If someone wants the cupcake recipe, let me know.)


megg said...

Oh Laini!! Your house must smell divine! How do you keep from eating everything?! What a wonderful Christmas tradition you guys have!! AND THE BOOK?!?!? Wow - you must be so overwhelmed with it all - it's ALMOST here!!!!!

And that was a delicious first line!!

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

I want the cupcake recipe!!

P.S You don't look older than 25 in that photo!!

(P.P.S. I LOVE Blackbringer thus far...)

Inconsequential said...



interesting glimpse.

Kristy said...

those macaroons look heavenly! When I get my oven back, perhaps I'll make them.


Star said...

these posts about cookies are making me hungry--today's look especially scrumptious!

katie said...

i loved reading about your adventures in europe with coffee, pink beer, and kissing drummers. and i agree, eggnog in coffee is just short of bliss. i wish i would have been a good girl in high school, but like your brother, i've turned out anyway!
and those coconut macroons look tantalizing.

Patry Francis said...

Now I must run out and buy eggnog for my morning coffee. Thanks for reminding me that Christmas is more than long to-do's tastes and smells and joy.

Amber said...

Yes, just hand over the cupcake resipe, an dno one will will get hurt.

I really like your post about your childhood. Fun to read. What a great way to grow up! Hmm... maybe Kory should re-join the army so our family can travel all over. (Not!)


Kim G. said...

You are killing us all with the cookie pictures! Yummo!

paris parfait said...

I love it when you tell tales of your dissolute youth - with cookies! Just delicious.