Tomorrow is my last day of actual discussion with my composition students, the food-based writing class for freshmen. While we’ll have business to attend to next week, and then final exams, tomorrow is our last day to come together as a class and discuss the readings they’ve been assigned. We’ve had a student bring a recipe to share almost every class meeting this semester, but tomorrow, no students will bring food (unless they want to).
I, however, will be sharing ginger cookies with the class.
I explained to them the other day that bringing food might seem like an odd exercise, but since we are investigating food and its cultural, social, and artistic implications (not to mention economic and ethical), preparing and sharing food with one another is paramount to that discussion. I take particular joy in hearing them talk about the recipes they bring, the ones they have prepared with their parents, the ones their parents used to make for them when they watched Saturday morning cartoons. I enjoy hearing them recount recipes and assure their classmates that the recipe is really easy to make. I had to smile every time one of them pointed out to our one student with a nut-allergy that, sorry, their dish has nuts. I appreciated that our one allergic student always takes it in stride.
As I graded food journals today, one student wrote, “Food reveals what you cherish.” And I think that’s true, though the thing you cherish isn’t necessarily (or likely) food itself; it’s the people around you, the principles you hold to, the places you know, the emotions attached to the world around us.
Preparing food and then sharing it is what we do. We bring foods when babies are born or family members pass away. We share food as gifts, as comfort, as celebration. When one begins dating someone, you go out for food; when it gets serious, you stay in. Someone cooks, perhaps. And you begin to know each other in a whole new way – kitchen behaviors, ingredient choices, etc. Food is a way we commune with one another. We are (at least) thrice daily thrown in close proximity with other people eating, just like us. That is significant.
As we finish out the semester, I wanted to share a familiar, go-to recipe with my students: Big Soft Ginger Cookies. Since mine never quite come out big, I’ve changed the name to Ginger Cookies. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com several years ago. It’s easy to make, can be adapted to use Christmas colors (as seen in the picture), and unlike ginger snaps, these cookies stay soft and chewy. They’re a great transition cookie as we go from the spicy flavors of Thanksgiving to the sweet, minty, sugary, and, okay, spicy flavors of Christmas.
The recipe note in my cookbook says that I first made these for my students in 2008 or 2009. I haven’t changed much.
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup molasses
Extra sugar for rolling cookies
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Then stir in water and molasses. Gradually stir dry ingredients into molasses mixture.
3. Shape cookie dough into walnut-sized balls and roll them in the remaining sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass (I dip the bottom of the glass in sugar if it gets sticky).
4. Bake 8-10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on sheet 5 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack.
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