Drop and Give Me Cookies! – Anise Drop Cookies-34 eggs, 34 cups of sugar, 22 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 21 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 155 recipes to go!

April 26, 2010

Martha's Anise Drop Cookies

André's Anise Drop Cookies

Anise (pronounced ah-Niece) is an acquired taste. It is derived from the seeds of a plant that is both a vegetable and a herb.  It is a relative to the fennel plant and shares its unmistakeable licorice flavor. It is not the same plant that we call star anise. However, most anise purchased at your local grocers is, in fact, derived from star anise since it yields a higher flavor content than regular anise seeds. Culturally, anise’s most prevalent usage is in Greek and Italian cuisine ranging from sausages and meats, to desserts and beverages. Star anise makes its appearances mostly in cuisine from the far East. Anise is a naturally occurring progesterone. That’s right, folks. It helps elevate estrogen levels. It also helps reduce menstrual cramps.

I researched all of this after baking these cookies to bring for a baby shower. Had I known all of this before the shower, I would have placed a little sign in front of them that simply read, “Midol Cookies.”

If you have been keeping track of my BEFS Ticker above (Butter, Eggs, Flour, and Sugar), you’d notice that there is no butter in this cookie recipe. Blasphemy, I know. This sweet and sophisticated biscuit is simply flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder held together with three eggs. The mixture is flavored with extract of anise, an ingredient that was not easy to locate. Among my complaints about Martha’s recipes, is the fact that there always seems to be one ingredient that no one has ever had in their pantry- EVER!

I imagine Martha’s recipe for boiling water would go something like this.

Eau Chaude (boiling water)

Mise en Place (set up)

2 cups of crystal clear purified water (domestic or imported)

1 stainless steel sauce pan (preferably Italian handmade)

heat (preferably from a natural source may be measured in celsius or fahrenheit, your choice)

Herbes de Provençe (because I say so)

Again, I have chosen to walk the path of Martha, therefore extract of anise would have to be procured. On a recent trip to New York, I stopped in at a terrific shop called, The Brooklyn Kitchen, and found a bottle at a reasonable price. Hooray for me! As a thank you to the fine folks at the Brooklyn Kitchen, I am adding a link to their store on this blog.

How do they taste? Like I said earlier, anise is an acquired taste. I am not a huge fan of licorice, but I found the texture really palatable. It is like a soft cookie with a fine and crispy, wafer-like crust. The licorice taste is unmistakeable, but fairly subtle. It is the perfect tea cookie, for those of you that drink tea. I prefer bourbon, myself. There really isn’t a cookie that goes well with Turkey & Seven.

Truth be told, I’m a fairly light and moderate drinker. I’ve only been “Fall-down” drunk a few times in my life, and was much, much younger.

During my time at Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, working as an improvisational comedian/ street performer, I had a roommate who was an elephant trainer and a very, very heavy drinker. As I have mentioned in my earlier post, one of the perks of working for the park was a monthly gift of two-to-four cases of beer per month. My roommate made quick use of his allotment as well as most of mine. He was a quirky, frat-boy-type, very tall and broad. He was a few years older than myself and had just recently switched from working security in the park to working with the animal trainers. He loved his elephants almost as much as he loved his beer. Well… his cigarettes and beer. Well… his weed, his cigarettes, and his beer.

Drug testing in the workplace was fairly uncommon in the early nineties and so there was a lot stuff being smoked, drunk, and inhaled in our small, second-floor apartment.

I am not an advocate for drug usage. Having used in my past (I did go to college, for crying out loud), I can honestly say that most stoners are pigs. My roommate was no exception. From years of daily, if not hourly, consumption of weed and beer, he developed a “Why Bother?” attitude.

The ashtray is full. – Why bother?

The dishes are dirty. – Why bother?

The cockatiel is dead. – Why bother?

My other peeve is that he didn’t know how to cook, but he did succumb to cannabis-induced cravings and look to me to sate his hunger.

He would make late-nite pilgrimages to the local grocers and return with eight or nine unrelated items and ask me to whip up something. Honestly, what did he think I could do with white bread, smoked oysters, muenster cheese, and a can of black olives? Yet, whatever I made he loved. He would eat every last bite, proclaiming it was the best thing he ever ate. Of course it was. He was stoned out of his mind.

One afternoon, having just finished a grueling shift of entertaining tourists in the blazing Florida heat, I entered into the refreshing, air-conditioned darkness of our living room and flopped down on the couch to rest my eyes. Our window blinds were always closed and the curtains were always drawn shut. Stoners are like vampires. They don’t like the light. Probably because their pupils are permanently dilated.

I could feel myself drifting off to sleep.  From the other room I heard the familiar snoring of my roommate. There was a pregnant elephant at the park that required twenty-four hour surveillance, and he had been taking the graveyard shift.

Just as I was about to descend into full-nap-mode, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement under the media cabinet. It was large and moving awkwardly. I sat up and followed it closely. I ducked down to the floor to get a better view and then jumped back in horror. It was a crab!- A fully grown, adult, straight-from-the Gulf of Mexico, Blue-Friggin’ Crab walking around my second floor apartment! Holy shit!

I ran to our little galley kitchen to fetch some tongs to retrieve it, but when I rounded the corner, I was struck by a scene straight out of a classic alien horror film. There were crabs walking all over my kitchen! They were on the countertops, in the sink, on the floor, wriggling, and walking their creepy  crab-walk all over the cheap linoleum. One dangled on the edge of the counter holding onto a dish towel with his large and intimidating pinchers. Smack! He fell to the floor, the dishtowel still in his grasps as he writhed trying to right himself.

This was not happening. I half-expected Sigourney Weaver, in full Alien-Combat attire, to bust through the door. I screamed the girlie-est scream I had ever uttered in my life. My roommate came busting onto the scene, shaking himself awake. He saw me, now white as a sheet, up to my ankles in blue crabs. He bursted out laughing.

I was not amused.

Taking turns, we grabbed the tongs and a bucket and began to collect the angry crustaceans. He explained that on the way home from work that morning, he saw a roadside vendor selling live blue crabs, and since I was from Louisiana, he thought I would know how to prepare them. Not knowing what to do with them before I got home, he decided to fill the sink with water and let them swim around.

I wanted to kill him.

“How many crabs did you buy?” -I asked.

“Uh…I dunno. A dozen, I think.”- he replied.

I only counted eleven in the bucket.

“I am not sleeping in this apartment with a rogue crab roaming the halls.” – I protested.

I was furious. We never did find the other crab… well, not that evening. A few days later when the couch began to emit an odor, we knew we had found the twelfth. I never did prepare those crabs, and we ended up having to throw away the couch. I didn’t want to talk, look at, or listen to my roommate after that. Looking back, it’s a great story to tell, but at the time, I wanted nothing more to do with him.

About a month later, at four o’clock in the morning, the phone rang. It was my roommate calling from the park.

“What the hell do you want at four o’clock in the morning?” – I snapped.

“Get dressed and meet me at the park gates. You have to see this.” – he pleaded.

It was just before dawn when I arrived at the gates. We sneaked along the quiet and dark path towards the elephant barn.

There she was. The pregnant elephant in the last throws of labor. Over the next few hours I watched as the new mother pushed and trumpeted, her face covered in tears. The zookeepers kept their distance. They had done all they could do and the rest was up to her. I could see her massive body contracting, squeezing this new life into the world. The smell was foul but I didn’t mind it. I was witnessing something so rare… so special.

With one huge heave, I saw a mound of gooey flesh flop to the floor. It laid there not moving. The mother turned aggressively towards us. With her trunk, she reached down and began to pull at the web of mucus and blood that encapsulated her babe. With a tug she released the young calf from its encasement and severed the cord that still connected mother and child.  The calf sprung to its feet and blew a jet of amniotic fluid from its glistening trunk.

Everyone cheered and hugged each other. I grabbed my roommate and gave him a big bear hug.

“Thank you.”- I said.

“Does this make up for the crabs?” – he asked, grinning from ear-to ear.

“Almost.” – I replied.

5 Responses to “Drop and Give Me Cookies! – Anise Drop Cookies-34 eggs, 34 cups of sugar, 22 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 21 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 155 recipes to go!”

  1. molly Says:

    Wow, cool story, Andre. I would have said “all is forgiven,” I think, given an invitation to that event!

    Anise reminds me of my Nana, who always had wrapped anise candies in the house. Which reminds me, when you get to Martha’s pizzelle recipe, let me know. I have a pizzelle iron.

  2. Russ Says:

    You can have the “why bother” attitude without ever touching drugs. I know.

  3. Alyse Says:

    I totally remember this roommate and the “ice,ice baby” routine. I also remember meeting the baby elephant when mom and I visited. Too funny. I remember the apartment stinking. Must have been pre-12th crab discovery.

  4. Don Adams Says:

    I love the dope-lubricated passage from anise cookies through your roommate’s crabs (no assumptions, people: read the blog) to elephantine masses of amniotic fluid. You always take us somewhere Martha never intended: many thanks!

    And with Turkey and Seven: how about ginger snaps?

  5. Mary Gemmell Says:

    I love this story – reefers and especially the elephant story.

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