Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hermits, of One Kind or Another

Strange as this may sound, I'm not exactly a social person by nature.  My husband and I joke that we married each other so we could be anti-social together.  So I feel a little awkward posting this, but here it is:
"A message from JeCaThRe at Bread, Wine, Salt:  I am organizing a virtual baby shower for Justine from A Half Baked Life. No trips to Babies-r-us [editorial remark: THANK GOODNESS], the post office or the airport are required. If Justine has amused, informed, comforted or enlightened you, or just made you hungry, join us as we help her welcome her little bean to the world.  See ."
I don't know what she has up her sleeve, but if it involves celebrating with the people I've gotten to know here in the blogosphere, I think I'll be OK.  Besides, JeCaThRe is a fabulously cool human being (who has just recently decided to pursue labor doula training!), and you should go read her blog anyway.

Here in the Real World, however, I'd like nothing better than to retreat.  My legs are swollen, my muscles hurt, I'm huge, and I'm feeling grumpy.  Today my assistant (whom I treat more as a colleague, I hope) broke down and told me that she really is not OK with the recent graduate office temp with no experience, whom she feels she is training, living in his own office space, with a bigger paycheck, while she has to sit at what is essentially a reception desk, without any privacy.  I understand her frustration, and would probably feel the same way in her shoes, so I went to bat for her, and was more or less told that this was the way it was going to be.  I felt powerless to address her concerns, and she, again understandably, was livid; I could see the wheels turning: I suspect she would love to leave the situation entirely.  I am praying that she doesn't quit while I'm on leave.

As much as I don't want to be home doing nothing for too long, waiting for the Bean to arrive, the idea of puttering around, not answering email (because it will still be coming, regardless of how clear I make it that I'm not in the office), not dealing with frustrating people and situations, is awfully appealing.  Just think of all the yoga classes I could attend.  The haircut I could get.  The reading I could do.  The naps I could take.

I made these cookies for the committee meeting I mentioned in a previous post; the group, which met last night despite the snow thanks to the stalwart souls who were willing to venture out, is always a reminder to me about the value of community and my responsibility to nuture it.  The group consists of about ten people, who care for our "church" fellowship by way of phone calls and congratulatory emails and rides and casseroles and everything in between, and honestly, everyone in that group inspires me to be a better version of myself. 

I've always appreciated the concept of tikkun olam from the Jewish tradition; one could become a hermit, but hiding away from the world is hardly the way to change it.

According to some people, hermit cookies, which originated in colonial New England, supposedly gained their name because the flavor of the cookie improves after being stowed away -- like a hermit -- for a few days.  Others say that the cookies were named because they look like a hermit's brown sack-cloth robe, even though the earliest recipes are for white and round cookies. Another possibility is that the Moravians, an ethno-religious group well-known for thin spice cookies in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, were sometimes called "herrnhutter" in German or Dutch, and that might have sounded like "hermits" to an English-speaking cook.

However you slice them, they're good to eat alone, with a friend, or with an entire committee of people who are changing the world, one small act at a time.  Maybe, like they do, I'll improve after a few days of being stowed away.

Vegan Coffeehouse Hermits

1/2 c. canola oil
2 c. coffee, strong, black cooled to room temp
1/3 c. molasses
2/3 c. sugar, plus additional for sprinkling, if desired
2 1/4 to 3 c. flour (a combination of white and whole wheat is fine)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground ginger
finely ground black pepper, 1 generous pinch
1/2 t. salt
1 c. dark raisins (be generous)

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, coffee, molasses, and sugar until thick. Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, black pepper, and salt. Fold in the dry ingredients till almost completely moistened, then fold in the raisins till a soft dough forms (you may need to keep adding flour; it's OK if you do.  You don't want batter here; you really do want dough). Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. After dough is chilled lightly moisten hands and divide dough in half. Make it into two logs about 13 inches long and 3 1/2 inches wide. Sprinkle the tops with sugar if you want; I didn't, and thought that they were quite tasty (my husband, who likes sweet things to be sweet, thinks that they should have been sweeter).

Bake 24 to 26 minutes till edges are lightly browned and the logs feel firm. It's OK if they crack. Cool 15 minutes. Cut the logs into approximately 2 inch slices (or however you like them). Cool completely on wire racks.
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  1. I don't like the situation for your assistant at all. What's the graduate office temp's story? What is the justification for what sounds so ridiculous?

  2. Love the virtual baby shower idea...brilliant! So sorry to hear about the drama surrounding your assistant, it sounds like you both have some very legitimate concerns. Those cookies look very interesting & delicious!

  3. This might be a good opportunity for your assistant to step up and go to bat for herself. And man oh man do I want those cookies!

  4. THose cookies look delicious, as always. Sounds like it is time for you to retreat for a while. I really do feel for your assistant. That is an awful situation. If it were me I would probably be looking for another job.

    I'm really behind on blogs at the moment - hope to catch up on all your posts soon.

    PS. I've sent a message to JeCathRe about the virtual shower. Sounds like so much fun!

    PPS. ooooh the word captcha was "Slowing". I thought that might make you smile. :)

  5. I LOVE this shower idea. It is so super awkward sitting in front of a big group of people opening gifts...especially for a hermit. :) I think this is the best of both worlds.

  6. I am a bit of a hermit I can appreciate hollowing a place inside the home...especially now! WHERE do you get your recipes??? (Not that I am doing much besides picking up dinners at Whole Paycheck these days...)

    Also, I really like the tikkun olam concept. I'll have to think about that some more...

    Good luck sleeping these last few weeks!!

  7. I think giving yourself those necessary, hermit moments while at the same time remaining connected to the rest of humanity is so important. And a hard balance to strike sometimes.

    And I hope that things stabilize at work, that by the time you go on leave everything has been smoothed over to your assistant's satisfaction (though, I do realize that this is unlikely). So I guess what I hope for more is that you're able to insulate yourself and to center yourself, and to get in a few of those naps, the books, the haircut. Not long now:)


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