i lost my mom exactly three years ago. since little bird’s passing, the thanksgiving holiday (ever our family’s favorite) has become more of a time of reflection than of feastivity (yeah, not a typo). i stopped preparing that lengthy to-do list and detailed menu that served as the countdown to turkey time (in fact, turkey no longer makes an appearance at our table). i don’t strategize about what time the night before i need to prepare the brioche dough. or when i should bound out of bed the next morning, so the pecan rolls will be ready when everyone else rises for coffee and televised parades. what remains the same is the sense of gratitude i feel for having had her in my life.
both of my zingy girls (mom and Winnie, the adorable, devilish English bull terrier) are gone now. they each had larger-than life personalities, equally huge hearts and generous spirits. more than once, i caught mom bending down and saying to Winnie, “you are one hot spud.” even in her twilight years, Winnie would respond with much tail-wagging, a few crisp barks of agreement and several speedy laps around the family room. then, of course, would demand a treat—and take a well-deserved snooze. they loved food, me and each other. maybe not exactly in that order.
little bird and Winnie had a zest for life. i’m dedicating this little number to my two, feisty, spicy gingers. until i see you again, keep each other company. love you to the moon and back…
a recipe from flour by Joanne Chang
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups unsulfured molasses
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
- preheat oven to 350°F.
- butter and flour a 9 x 13–inch pan.
- using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2 – 3 minutes); scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure there are no lumps.
- in a small bowl, whisk together the grated ginger and eggs until blended.
- with the mixer on low speed, add the egg mixture, and beat until just combined.
- scrape the sides and bottom of bowl, then beat on medium speed for 20 – 30 seconds, until mixture is homogenous.
- in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, ground ginger, pepper, cinnamon and cloves; set aside.
- in another medium bowl, whisk together the molasses, boiling water, and baking soda.
- on the lowest mixer speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the mixture already in the bowl, then beat until incorporated.
- pour in one half of the molasses mixture, and continue to mix at the lowest speed until combined; scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- on the lowest mixer speed, add half of the remaining flour mixture, and beat until incorporated.
- add the remaining molasses mixture, and beat until incorporated.
- stop the mixer, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- add the final flour mixture, and beat on low speed for about a minute.
- scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
- bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the middle.
- let cool in pan on a wire rack.
serve with vanilla-bean whipped cream. let your dog lick the whipped cream off the whisk. give your mom the biggest, bestest piece.
we’ve all been taking it kind of easy at our house this month. the temperature has been unseasonably cool and the sky gray. and that’s probably a good thing for Winnie, as she hasn’t been feeling particularly spritely. at nearly 15, her pace has slowed dramatically in contrast to when she lived in the mountains above Colorado Springs. now, those were some days.
back then, Winnie rarely slept in. she liked to hang out on the back deck, sniffing the crisp mountain air and, undoubtedly, all the native creatures who shared our property (with big cats nearby, Winnie never got to stay out on the deck too awfully long without human supervision). when she wasn’t surveying the outdoor scene, she spent her time wedged between me and the kitchen counter—every time i fixed a meal. another favorite pastime? sunning. if there was a patch of sunshine to be found in the house, Winnie would be in it. asleep on her back, with all four in the air.
a true-blue mountain dog, Winnie would hike valiantly by our sides (or pull so hard on her leash, she’d wear herself out). like that time on the Women’s Trail, when she laid down in the middle of the path and refused to go any further, forcing Tootie to carry her back to the car. Winnie’s sense of direction: as accurate as any GPS. like that time when she mysteriously got out of the yard, and got lost, and Lisa searched for and ultimately retrieved her from the home of a distant neighbor, who’d graciously corralled her. Winnie’s valor: unsurpassed. like that time we were instructed to evacuate during the Hayman fire, and she barked her butt off in the hotel room (and i was afraid we’d be ejected), until we put her up on the bed with us (don’t tell).
i always imagine when Winnie dreams (and her little feet are running in her sleep), she’s dreaming of her life as a Colorado mountain dog. my heart is there, too. with family and friends. with those who’ve lost their homes. and with the fire warriors, who tirelessly fight the good fight.