A few days ago I went shopping for running shoes for the first time since Oliver was born. I used to run marathons in my early thirties and would look for pretty specific things in a shoe, but these days I knew I’d use them for occasional runs, walks and bike rides, so training shoes, per se? Not as critical. I miss my serious running days, but my priorities (and my body) are a little different now, and I’ve grown ok with that. So there you have it: on a mild afternoon in early March, I strolled into a local running store and strolled out twenty minutes later with not one but three pairs of new running shoes, along with an anger I couldn’t squelch.
A young sales guy was helping me – let’s call him “Jerrod,” if only because that’s his real name – at least to the degree he could while keeping constant vigil over his phone. Jerrod pulls out the three pairs of shoes I was interested in and as I’m trying them on, I chat with another associate on the floor about her son; we both, as it turns out, have toddler boys and set about commiserating about their precipitous emotional highs and lows that, so they say, will one day normalize. When she went to help another customer, Jerrod turns to me to say, “well maybe these shoes are more than you need? Since you’re just home doing the mom thing we can pull out something else that might work better?”
My face felt red hot as I stared down at my feet. Then I looked straight into Jerrod’s eyes and said, “I’ll take all three” (this is the point in the story in which my husband thinks I’ve lost my mind). He seemed confused and kept reiterating his point that he could bring out more shoes that would fit my lifestyle better. I said “I’ll take all three, Jerrod,” grabbed all three, and started walking up to the register. Now sure, a few days later I see that I have more sneakers than I need and perhaps that wasn’t the most prudent financial decision and yes, I have to figure out when Jerrod takes his lunch break so I can return two of them.
I’ve found I have a particularly strong reaction when people say that someone is “just doing the mom thing.” I got it a lot after I sold Marge, even from some close friends — and I don’t blame them; I know what they meant. I didn’t sell Marge to be a stay at home mom; I sold it for a lot of other reasons. But “just doing the mom thing?” I don’t know, Jerrod. I actually like working. I happen to like being a mother, as well. And neither of those two passions really tell you anything about what running shoes I might need, no less want. And had I decided to stay at home with Oliver full time, “just” really wouldn’t be the word I’d use as I’m convinced it’s one of the hardest jobs out there. Try it out for a day, Jerrod. See how you do. Report back.
For now, I’ll keep wearing my three pairs of sneakers around the house, trying to determine which to keep while making breakfast cookies and copywriting a wine website for a client. Oh and ordering Oliver a new backpack for our upcoming trip to see Nana, and racing to the grocery store to use my coupon for free salmon this week at our local coop. You know, just doing the mom thing.
These cookies are a riff on a recipe in my cookbook for Nutty Millet Breakfast cookies that we make quite a bit. With all the flavors of carrot cake (carrots, coconut, raisins) along with toasty pistachios and warm spices they’re great with coffee or tea and make a most welcome second breakfast, for those of you who are up early and are into that sort of thing. I always like to manage expectations with baked goods: these cookies aren’t crispy — they’re quite soft and chewy: imagine a healthy muffin top in cookie form. I hope you love them.
Sidenote: if you haven’t yet seen Brandi Carlile sing her new song, Mother, to her daughter it’s worth a listen/watch; my favorite part is Evangeline mouthing the words towards the end of the song. The absolute sweetest.
Soft and chewy, these cookies bake up quickly and only dirty two bowls in the process. While I love the pops of color from the pistachios, swap in another nut if you’d like (or omit altogether to keep them nut-free). Because of the high moisture content from the fresh carrots, the cookies are best eaten within 2 days of baking. I often freeze a few to have on hand for those late mornings when a warm, whole grain cookie sounds like just the thing.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, oats, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, folding in with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Stir the carrots, pistachios, coconut and raisins into the dough until combined (feel free to use your hands and get in there to give the dough a few turns to ensure all the dry ingredients are incorporated). The dough will be super sticky; that’s ok. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Scoop out 2 tablespoons of dough and, working quickly, form a ball using your hands. Place the balls about 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Gently flatten the cookies with the palm of your hand to about ¾ inch thickness.
Bake for about 12 minutes, or until slightly golden brown around the edges and firmed yet still soft in the center (they’ll continue to firm up as they cool). Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.