It has been a shitty winter.
No matter what good things may be happening in one’s personal life, I have this image that we’re all in a cabin, surrounding by a dark wood. Very Laura Ingalls. It may be well-lit and provisioned inside, but we’re stir crazy, we want to “do something.” We go outside to yell and wave signs and throw money at our problems but we’re marooned in here, isolated by terrible things, and we feel weak and ineffectual and dumb. Am I the only person who found Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark too depressing to finish? Who’s been ordering take-out instead of cooking? Who is hungry?
I think we all are to some extent - we’re besieged, we aren’t taking care of ourselves. Into this landscape, Anna Brones (Fika, The Culinary Cyclist) has released Protest Fuel: the Revolution Must Be Fed, a short zine of recipes, stories, and quotes, meant to encourage us to get out there and continue protesting and taking action, but also to take care of ourselves and others, using the simple act of cooking to remember who we are and what we’re fighting for. If we lose sight of basic needs, for sustenance but also for creativity and community, we won’t be in very good shape to keep pushing and yelling; we retreat back into our cabins alone.
The pamphlet has many contributions, and the recipes run the gamut from family comfort foods to meals inspired by refugees and immigrants, adding some strong drinks and desserts to get us through these dark days. Most of the food is straightforward - healthy grains and soups you can cook at the end of a long day with what you have. Some are charming, like the “Recipe for a Strong Voice” smoothie written by Amelia Semke (age 7). Many were reminders of what a melting pot we live in, and how the same ingredients and techniques are repeated over and over around the world, especially by people who ostensibly “hate” each other, coming to rest side by side at the great American potluck. Lisa Knisley’s essay “The Single Girl’s Guide to Surviving Trump Together” is a lovely reminder that we can create solidarity on our own terms - and have fun with it.
This zine welcomed me back into the kitchen as a reminder to make something - anything. I went with Jami Curl’s “Keeping the Joy in Your Heart” Mexican Wedding Cookies, and dipped them in Erika Palmar’s Bourbon Chocolate Sauce. Both were simple and delicious, and I’m glad I have them on hand for this long President’s Day weekend. They will be needed.
My father keeps asking me if I “feel better yet.” But the point isn’t to feel better, it’s to keep going, feeding ourselves and others, in the hopes that one day we may actually be better.
make these two things:
Keeping the Joy in Your Heart Mexican Wedding Cookies (by Jami Curl)
for approximately 48 cookies
8 oz / 2 sticks / 227g salter butter, softened (a European-stye butter will make these even better)
1/2 cup / 57g powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups / 240g AP flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 cup / 113g pecans, nicely toasted and very finely chopped (but not pulverized into dust)
Additional sifted powered sugar for coating cookies
Preheat oven to 350F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the salted butter, powered sugar, and vanilla extract until fluffy and lighter in color. On medium speed this will take around four minutes.
Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and then gradually add this to the butter mixture. Mix until a dough starts to form, then add the pecans, continuing to mix until completely combined and dough-like.
Roll the dough into 48 one-inch balls (using a scoop will help with uniformity which will help the cookies bake the same). Arrange the balls on the baking sheets and slide them into the oven.
Bake for 14-15 minutes, rotating trays halfway through, until he cookies look dry and are just starting to turn golden at the edges.
Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes, then roll each cookie in a nice coating of powdered sugar. Once completely cool, roll each cookie in the powdered sugar again (they’ll now be bright white) and store airtight. They’ll keep for a week - getting more and more delicious as the days go by. Dip some of them in:
Bourbon Chocolate Sauce (by Erika Palmar)
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp dark brown sugar (packed)
6 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chopped (Palmar recommends Vahlrona dark)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp bourbon (1 tbsp is perfectly acceptable)
In a saucepan over medium heat combine the cream and brown sugar (ed note - I used a double boiler as I always scald the scream). Stir until the sugar dissolves and the cream is on the verge of boiling. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate; keep stirring until it’s smooth. Add bourbon and vanilla and you’re done! You can serve the sauce immediately or store it in the fridge for up to a week - if you can keep your hands off of it!