Sparkle, Martha!- Cocoa Shortbread Diamonds- 81 eggs, 62 3/4 cups of sugar, 60 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 67 2/3 cups of flour used so far- 129 recipes to go!

July 31, 2010

Martha's Cocoa Shortbread Diamonds

André's Cocoa Shortbread Diamonds

“He’s your guy
When stocks are high,
But beware when they start to descend.

It’s then that those louses
Go back to their spouses.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

– Lyricist Jules Styne from Gentlemen Prefer Blonds (1953)

I wanted to make a simple shortbread to share with my friends Michelle and Faye at an informal lunch at work where they were bringing in their new little boy, Maxx. Yes, that’s Maxx with two “X”s. I joke that when he gets to college he’ll introduce himself as Maxxx with three “X”s. I had a friend in high school who was named James William Ulysses Lamy, in other words, Jimmy Will. U. Lamy. We all got a kick out of that one. Even the Catholic Brothers had to snicker. I also had a friend named Taj… Taj Mayhall. Parents can be so cruel.

Since this was a shortbread recipe I, of course, had to share a couple of these treats with my Baroness Von Shortbread to get a proper shortbread review. Here is what the Baroness had to say.

Your latest shortbread definitely doesn’t look like shortbread, but it is a very pretty cookie. It vaguely resembles a shortbread in flavor. It’s crispier, and has a nice snap. It doesn’t melt in your mouth like a traditional shortbread, but I don’t think I mind. The cocoa (I think) has a bit of a bitter aftertaste.
In my last review, I established myself as a purist, and I think I will stick with my assessment. This cookie wouldn’t satisfy me if I was craving shortbread, but I like it quite a bit.”

I used to think I was my toughest critic but the Baroness has me second-guessing that thought. She’s right, though. The cocoa does have a bitterness to it. I can best describe the taste of this cookie as that of an Oreo with the filling replaced with melted white chocolate. They are very pretty cookies. Mine would’ve been prettier if I had a diamond shaped cookie cutter. Instead, I used a square cookie cutter and let the consumer use their imagination. Sorry, Martha.

I am the oldest of four. I have three younger sisters and we are all two years apart in age. My partner, Dan is the youngest of four and there is almost a ten year difference in age between him and his youngest sibling. Yup, my partner was an Oops-Baby. This has worked out well for us, though. I think as the oldest I’ve lived my life assuming that everything will be lost, broken or taken away. That doesn’t mean I’m a pessimist. It just means I plan for the worst. Dan, on the other hand, as the youngest lives his life assuming everything will be taken care of. That doesn’t mean he’s selfish or self-centered. It just means he doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about things. We really have a symbiotic relationship. I feel as though we’re always prepared for what may come but we don’t forget to enjoy the here and now. As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”

My three younger sisters are all very different people. I am probably closest with my sister, Nicole. Since she was the oldest of my sisters, we grew up together. I have to say, as an adult looking back on the years, I have developed a deep admiration for her. Our childhood was less than ideal. Honestly, who wants to admit to having a happy childhood? That said, ours had some exceptional challenges and my sisters and I have struggled with its resolution well into our adulthood. I’ve always been impressed with Nicole’s ability to cope, though.

While in college and still quite young, Nicole made an enormous Catholic misstep. She became pregnant. I was living in Florida at the time so I did not witness the familial explosion that ensued, but through many phone calls from her, my mom, and my other sisters I was able to piece together what was going on.

Not knowing what to do, scared of what others might think, and feeling the need for some serious punishment, my parents simply cut her off. No money, no support, no shelter, no food- she was to give birth to this “bastard” and raise it alone. Not a terribly Christian notion, but most of Christianity is riddled with these deep-rooted non-Christian notions.

My sister went to work at a casino as a dealer and worked as many shifts as she could. Casino hours are odd and long. The customers are rude and irritable. The management is strict and not terribly friendly and even though she was very young and very pregnant, they were not going to cut her any slack. She remained in school as long as she could. The father of the child was still in the picture but my sister was reluctant to commit to marriage, not sure if he was mature and responsible enough to be a father and husband to a family that was soon on its way.

Nicole had the support of my other sisters and myself, but my parents kept their distance. She accepted the pressure of all of this with stride.

I’ve noticed with many family members and friends through the years, parenthood changes them. Some are changed for the better and some are not. Motherhood was Nicole’s calling. She now has three beautiful children and a full-time position in management. Her children are exceptional and her oldest, the little baby that my parents didn’t want to see, is now entering his Senior year of High School as an “A” student.

Over the years my sister has dealt with an unplanned pregnancy, diabetes, a failed marriage, a new marriage, job loss, poverty, welfare, depression, and food stamps, only to emerge as a smart, funny person with more strength than I’ll ever have.

During a recent conversation she spoke of the pressures in her current world. She’s still learning a new job, she is paying two mortgages while waiting for her old house to sell, the new home’s floorboards have started to develop a mysterious mound in the living room, she has a son going off to college in a year, and she has to have a hysterectomy in a month.

“I simply can’t take another thing!” -she complained.

“Yes you can.” – I responded, knowing that with her track-record she can handle anything.

A diamond’s beauty can only really be appreciated when one thinks about the many years of twists and turns and relentless pressure it took to create it. It’s the toughest and most precious stone in the world. It’s a testament to the beauty of endurance.

Almost as beautiful as my sister.

5 Responses to “Sparkle, Martha!- Cocoa Shortbread Diamonds- 81 eggs, 62 3/4 cups of sugar, 60 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 67 2/3 cups of flour used so far- 129 recipes to go!”

  1. Russ Says:

    We “Oops Babies” are always waiting for others to fix everything. We’ll pitch in when it looks as if a solution is in sight, but don’t ask an Oops Baby to initiate the building of a barn.

    Also — “Shine On You Crazy Martha” would have made a better title (I’m listening to Pink Floyd right now).

  2. Alyse Says:

    Very sweet and very true! I love my sis!

  3. nina Says:

    teary-eyed, andre! beautiful story! you have phenomenal people in your life which is a testament to your amazing self! for making me almost cry i demand a cookie for compensation 🙂

  4. Tommy Salami Says:

    Thanks for explaining how me (firstborn) and my gal (an oopsie) will be getting along when we get married.
    I also have a strong sister who I rely on.

    Tell your sis to have the plumbing checked, if the floorboards are swelling. I had a leaky pipe once, and didn’t know until the hardwood floor began expanding like a volcanic cone in my living room.

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