Cashew! Gesundheit, Martha!- Cashew-Caramel Cookies! – 102 eggs, 82 1/4 cups of sugar, 80 sticks of Butter, and 91 cups of flour used so far- 115 recipes to go!

September 7, 2010

Martha's Cashew-Caramel Cookies

André's Cashew-Caramel Cookies

The cashew is a tree, a fruit, and a nut. Its name is derived from the Portuguese word for the fruit it bears, Caju. If you don’t know how these nuts are grown and harvested, I suggest spending a little time on the internet looking up this fascinating plant’s history and cultivation. The cashew tree is an evergreen with twisted branches that flower with light green petals which turn red over time. The flowers then develop oval or pear-shaped pseudocarps (false fruit). This large accessory fruit, called a cashew apple is edible and is enjoyed by the local cashew-growing cultures, however the skin of the fruit is quite fragile and therefore impossible to transport for us to enjoy in the States. Below the cashew apple is a pod called a drupe. Inside this kidney-shaped pod is the cashew nut, the real fruit of the cashew tree. I can’t help but marvel at the agricultural science that has gone into cultivating and harvesting this impressive plant and will never look at a bowl of cashews the same way again.

Martha’s recipe for Cashew-Caramel Cookies makes good use of two complimentary flavors. The mild toasty nuttiness of the cashews combined with the dark, sweet, and rich flavor of the caramel makes for a terrific and sophisticated little treat. I baked a batch of these for a baby shower in honor of a married couple at work who are cultivating a little cashew of their own. They were a big hit. So much so, the mom-to-be never got one because they disappeared so quickly.

Cashews and a tiny bit of oil are thrown into a food processor and ground into cashew butter then added to the usual suspects of flour, egg, butter, and sugar. Crushed cashews are added to the cookie dough as well. Scoops of the dough are dropped and flattened onto the cookie sheet and baked till golden. The really fun part was making the caramel topping. I’ve lived in Martha’s world for almost six months now and was expecting to have to make my own caramel. After all, I’ve had to do that with several other previous recipes. Martha usually likes to take “Do-It-Yourself” to the next level. I imagine her recipe for omlettes would start with buying a live chicken. But in the case of the Cashew-Caramel Cookies, Martha called for store-bought caramels. You know, the little cubes wrapped in cellophane? I guess she was trying to throw Kraft Foods a bone with this one. Anyhoo, I unwrapped twenty-four of these little candies and melted them with a tough of heavy cream then drizzled them over the baked and cooled cookies. Sounds delectable, doesn’t it?

If you are looking for a good “adult” cookie, I wholeheartedly endorse this one. And now that you know a bit about the cashew, you can impress your audience with your useless nut knowledge.

In my last post I wrote about my time as a theatre teacher at Baton Rouge Magnet High School and I promise to resolve that story in a future post, but before I do so, I need to have a few conversations with some people very close to my heart. The story, although mine, is not mine alone and I want to make sure I’m not opening old wounds or inadvertently dancing on some raw nerves. More to come on that one.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d talk about my roommate from my one semester at Louisiana State University. His name was Farah Quora and he was from Jordan. He was my new and improved roommate after I requested a reassignment from LSU’s housing department.

When entering a living unit in the resident halls at LSU you essentially walked into a shared bathroom. Once inside the bathroom there was a door to your left and a door to your right. Behind those doors was a dorm room shared by two students. My initial room assignment found me sharing space with a good looking guy from Lafayette, Louisisana. He was muscular and tanned with short, cropped brown hair, a killer smile, and a healthy sex and coke addiction. My suite mates across the hall were loud and opinionated fellows from Metairie, Louisiana (the home of loud and opinionated people – David Duke, Louisiana’s very own neo-nazi darling, was from Metairie as well as a few of my outspoken relatives). These Metairiaryans placed a sign over their door in the first week declaring their room as a “NO HOMO ZONE!”  In the second week a new sign appeared on my dorm room door with the simple request- “DIE, HOMO. DIE!” This threatening note coupled with being awakened in the middle of the night by my roommate standing naked over my bed in a coke-induced frenzy thumping his erection against my forehead compelled me to seek alternative housing arrangements. My counselor’s solution was to have me share a room with Farah from Jordan.

Farah was a slender, dark-skinned, and nervous fellow. He showered with his swim suit on, and slept with the light on. He spoke little English except for, what quickly became his catch phrase- “Jesus Christ. My Savior.”

Well, it was better than being killed by a pack of homophobes or having to participate in late night visits from the phallic percussionist.

I liked Farah. He was really a sweet fellow although I never could understand how he was able to get through his classes without understanding English.  Our neighbors across the hall were from Slidell, Louisiana and had been best of friends through high school. They were fairly nice guys even though they liked to pick on Farah’s heritage quite a bit. Farah would just smile, shrug it off and run to his room where he would sit and read his bible.

I had been taking a class in theatrical makeup and that Halloween I decided to introduce Farah to the dark holiday. I painted Farah’s face in an intricate and impressive cheetah pattern and photographed it for my class. I then took Farah out for a night on the town. I took him to one of the few gay bars in Baton Rouge. I didn’t do this to be cruel. Farah was from a culture where men danced with men and so I thought he’d feel at home. He did. We had a blast. I got a few laughs from watching him go up to perfect strangers and shout. “I’m a Cheetah! Growl! Jesus Christ my savior!”

It was a happy time, that semester at LSU. I learned a lot about Farah and he learned a lot about me.  We were a strange pairing of friends- the liberal American gay and the Evangelical Middle-Easterner. By the end of the semester, he spoke enough English to form proper sentences. He was able to tell me about his home in Jordan and how he came to Louisiana to work at his uncle’s shoe store in Lafayette. He told me about the fighting and the conflict in Jordan and how the military moved his family about throughout his childhood and I began to understand why he slept with the light on. He also told me about how his uncle in Lafayette looked at him and forced him to shower in front of him and then I understood why he showered with his swim trunks on.

Our suitemates had been arrested towards the end of the semester. They’d been prank-calling one of their elderly professors for months, thinking that the number could not be traced. They were wrong. I was’nt there when the police came for them. Farah was. When I entered our dorm room I found Farah in the corner praying loudly, tears streaming down his face. He explained that men in uniform took our suitemates away. I was confused by how distraught he was but then realized that back in Jordan, men in uniform would take people away all the time- people who would never be seen again.

I sat down and explained how these things worked in the States. I then took him down to the campus police center so he could see they were okay. I explained to the policeman at the desk what had happened and how traumatized my roommate was by witnessing the arrest. The policeman then escorted us to the holding cell so that Farah could see that our suitemates were okay.

Farah looked at them. They looked at Farah.

“What the hell are you doing here?” – they asked, slightly embarrassed.

I explained that Farah was very worried about them. That in his country, men in uniform took people away on a regular basis.

“Well, this is America, you stupid camel-jockey! We’ve got rights!”- they laughed at Farah.

Farah looked at me and rolled his eyes. Turned back to the guys behind bars, stuck out his tongue, and headed towards the door.

As we walked back to the dorms Farrah turned to me and said, “André, Jesus Christ not their savior.”

I responded, “Amen, Farah. Amen.”

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