I never really believed the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I was more of a believer of “out of sight, out of mind.” What I know now is that they’re both a little true and I may have been misunderstanding the platitudes. When you’re away from someone, as I have been when working back and forth in Mexico, you really start to appreciate the wonderful things you miss about a person. The truth in “out of sight out of mind” makes dealing with someone’s absence just a little easier. It doesn’t mean they don’t pop into your mind. It means they don’t dwell in your mind, which is actually kind of healthy.
Today I bring you the perfect recipe for a celebration. It’s our third wedding anniversary (after 15 years together)! #slowmovers. Right now three years ago I was standing upstairs watching my guests arrive with butterflies in my stomach, the sun slowly melting the cold fog revealing the first blooms on the trees. I can’t believe that was three years ago. Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once and it might sail out of your hands forever. That’s why it must be celebrated while it’s here. What better way to celebrate than with Mexican wedding cookies?! These are a gluten-free adaptation of those wonderful pastries from my new adopted work home, Mexico.
Polvorones get their name from polvo, the Spanish word for powder, or dust. These are a soft and very crumbly shortbread traditionally made of flour, sugar, milk, and nuts. Here I substituted almond flour, left over from the almond milk, for the actual flour. These are deeply chocolatey and covered with a coating of powdered sugar with toasty pecans and plenty of salt. Dark brown sugar and vanilla add depth. Cinnamon and cayenne slowly emerge in the finish. To make them more crumbly there is tapioca flour, something I only have because of my pan de bono recipe from my mother-in-law.
These cookies go great with almond milk and good conversation. So let’s do that together. Come sit.
Celebration leads to contemplation with me. With all of these natural time markers, hard work in another country that actually earned me a change in position, a promotion of sorts and my new niece in the equation of the world, I sent an email from Mexico to my friend David, who also has a beautiful food blog, is also living the big law lifestyle in NYC and is a new dad.
David has a growing rant section on his blog, in which he rants about all things from bottled tomato sauce to Starbucks, and possibly the markup on guacamole in restaurants. I figured my rant might fit right in. I ranted about everything from how I hate Pinterest’s changes to competing affections for work and home. How to balance my lawyerly ambition (client meetings, responsibility, frequent flyerhood — things that make me feel important, powerful and successful in my chosen field) against the sacrifices I fear that kind of success might entail (missing my husband, my art, kids, home, frequent flyerhood). Real life things and my ambivalence toward them in the spirit of the true meaning of ambivalence — the state of having very strong, mixed feelings in contradictory directions.
In his thoughtful response he gave me some poignant gems of consideration and a powerful reminder about the importance of ambivalence, a sister act to mindfulness.
“As you know, I’m a big believer in the importance of ambivalence. All big life choices and changes involve, or should involve, ambivalence. Excitement of travel is meant to be balanced against the comfort of home. Thoughts about having a family necessarily press against the fear of what having kids will mean — if these things are not in tension, it probably means you’re living in a fantasy. The problem is that ambivalence is uncomfortable. But I do find it comforting to consider the benefits of ambivalence — it stops you from making rash decisions, it helps you value what you’ve got.”
Ambivalence helps you to define your values. Eventually you will feed the wolf that needs the most attention and it will serve as a guiding force. An anniversary is a good time to celebrate a life shared, finding in another person a loom on which to spin one’s dreams, a deeply burning flame, life’s cycles, good friends and all things for which I am grateful. A relationship doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You need people, interests and values to support you. An anniversary is a time to notice what you want and don’t want and a measure how far you’ve come. It’s a refrain to the recurring question in my mind, “How are we to live?” With positive intentions, grace and radiating warmth. By acknowledging good things and celebrating them. With powdered sugar and polvorones.
Happy Friday everyone!
SPICY CHOCOLATE POLVORONES
Recipe adapted generously from the Bojon Gourmet. How am I just discovering how awesome this woman is?
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or grease lightly).
In a bowl, combine the almond flour, cocoa powder, tapioca starch, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and cayenne. Add the pecans, scatter the butter pieces over the top, and sprinkle over the vanilla. Mix until the butter is incorporated and the dough forms large clumps, 1-2 minutes. I used my hands. Cover the dough and chill for 30 minutes (or up to several days).
Sift the powdered sugar into a shallow bowl. Form tablespoon-sized 1″ balls of dough and roll them in the powdered sugar, and place the balls on the baking sheet an inch or two apart.
Bake the cookies until puffed and cracked, around 18 minutes. It’s a bit hard to tell when these are done. The cookies will be soft at first but should crisp up when cool. (If they’re still soft when cool, return them to the oven to bake them a bit longer).
Let the cookies cool, then roll each one a second time in the powdered sugar. I like these best the first day of baking when the spices are bright and the cookies are crisp, but they can be layered with parchment paper and stored airtight for up to several days. If they start looking bald, give them another coat of powdered sugar. Buen provecho!