Snappy Little Cookies!- Gingersnap-Raspberry Sandwiches! – 116 eggs, 92 cups of sugar, 92 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 104 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 106 recipes to go!

October 8, 2010


 

Martha's Gingersnap-Raspberry Sandwiches

 

 

André's Gingersnap-Raspberry Sandwiches

 

I have a wonderful coworker who recently celebrated a birthday. Well, technically she’s kind of my boss. Well, even more technically she’s my boss’ boss. Despite all of that, she’s a pretty cool lady and has done a lot for my career in recent years that certainly warrant a birthday batch of Martha’s cookies. I wasn’t sure which recipe would be most appealing to her so I took a chance on the Gingersnap-Raspberry Sandwiches. I love sandwich cookies. They’re kind of like a meal in themselves. You know, like jelly donuts? Well, at least you get a serving of fruit to cut through all the transy-fatty-bad-stuff. What I don’t like about baking sandwich cookies is that you have to make twice as many cookies because two of them are needed to make one sandwich. That means multiple batches. Other than the time needed to bake lots of them, these cookies were relatively simple to make. All the ingredients are whipped up at once so mixing the dough is a breeze. The dough is shaped into tablespoon sized balls which are then rolled in sugar. Keeping these balls of dough consistent in size was a bit of  a pain but necessary since they have to be matched to make a proper sandwich. The filling couldn’t be simpler.  It was raspberry jam right out of the jar. Half of the cookies get a liberal smear of jam and are topped off with another cookie. Voila! Gingersnap-Raspberry Sandwiches!

These are some seriously delicious cookies. Their flavor is remarkably complex. The cookie itself is quite crisp and explodes with the strong flavors of cinnamon, ginger and allspice. These distinct spices actually pair remarkably well with the tart raspberry to create a treat with a spicy, tangy and sophisticated bite. I would recommend this cookie as a wonderful gift for holiday gatherings or treats to serve at tea with adult friends. I imagine younger palate’s might find the flavors too strong to truly appreciate how delicious these cookies really are, so save this recipe for the older folks in your life.

I’ve been writing a lot lately about my primary Catholic school years but I haven’t really written much about high school. I have a lot of memories of high school which I’m eager to share. Those years can be easily described, to quote Mr. Dickens, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

I began High School in 1981 after a Summer  working in my cousin’s hardware store and beginning to learn to drive from my dad (a blog post in itself). The previous year, in eighth grade,  my parents and I had begun the admissions process. Louisiana was known for having a less-than-stellar public school system so my parent’s sights, like most parents in our parish, were set on my attending Catholic High School. That’s not a description. That’s the name- Catholic High School- as if the statue of Jesus in the front lawn didn’t give it away.

The school was run by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart who lived in a small 2500 square foot monastery adjacent to the school. Half of the monastery was sectioned off for a smaller group of five or six brothers who were cloistered. Cloistered, in case any of you have not heard the term, means they are cut-off from the world. They live their life in silent prayer behind closed doors with no contact with the community outside their walls. Most clergy that choose a cloistered life have their reasons. I imagine it would be an introvert’s dream job. I also imagine that many of the cloistered men and women have some sort of noticeable physical defect. The world can be quite cruel so I can see how a life of solitary prayer would appeal to someone who had to deal with a lot of pointing and stares growing up.

Catholic High School was a school for good Catholic boys. A training camp for future doctors and lawyers, really. Saint Joseph’s Academy, just down the street, was a school for good Catholic girls. A training camp for future wives of doctors and lawyers.

The interviews- yes there was more than one- with the school administrators and admissions folks seemed endless. My grades were good enough but the fact I stepped out of the parochial school system during my sixth grade year raised some concerns. Most interviews focused on what I thought it meant to be a good Catholic and what my personal interests were.

My interests were in music mostly. Catholic High School had a band program. I really loved music but I didn’t want to be in band. I played the piano and flute and those were considered  “girl” instruments.  I mean, really? Besides, marching in the hot Louisiana sun playing a rousing version of Van Halen’s Jump while wearing a polyester uniform had no appeal to me whatsoever. I did, however, have an interest in choir. Choir in a Catholic school is important. Where there are masses to be said, you have to have boys singing. Castrati if you’ve got ’em. In fact, I think this might be a Catholic rule or something. Honestly, I never paid much attention in religion class. I could also play piano well enough to accompany the choir when needed. This was a good thing because the choir director could’nt beyond plucking out a few notes for sections to learn their parts. Think of the money I’d save the school by not having to hire accompanists.

I really didn’t want to go to Catholic High. I never had much success in making friends or getting along with other boys. I wasn’t looking forward to the level of pure machoism that would inevitably come with boys having to spend eight hours a day with other boys. Most of all I wasn’t looking forward to being taught by Brother Gordon.

Brother Gordon was a legend in the East Baton Rouge Parish Parochial School System. Every student would be taught by Brother Gordon twice during their time at Catholic High. All freshman students would take Brother Gordon’s torturous course in Earth Science and all Seniors would have him as their Physics teacher. Tales of Brother Gordon started early in elementary school. The stories of his height, his booming voice, his anger, his archaic teaching methods terrified me. Terrified all of us. But these stories in no way prepared any of us for actually learning from the man.

Brothers of the Sacred Heart had a uniform of sorts: a white shirt (long or short sleeved), black trousers, black belt, black shoes, and black tie. They looked a bit like God’s personal secret service. Many wore glasses, standard issue, black plastic, and horn-rimmed. We referred to these as Scare-the-Freshman spectacles.

Brother Gordon was a tall man standing at almost seven feet. He was also morbidly obese. In his uniform he presented an almost perfect silhouette of a black & white teardrop. His head sported tufts of silver-grey hair impeccably trimmed to less than a quarter-of-an-inch. His thick Scare-the-Freshman spectacles rested on his wide nostrils that flared audibly with each inhalation. His brow was perpetually furrowed and his mouth was carved into his pale and veiny skin. It was twisted in a permanent scowl framed by large, fleshy jowls that would shake menacingly whenever he spoke. Brother Gordon, however, never really spoke. He barked. He would open his enormous mouth of dark, yellow teeth and bite the air with loud and intimidating vowel tones that shook the walls, shook the floors, and shook the students to their very souls. His jowls segued seamlessly to a thick, pink neck squeezed and contained by his thin black tie like a Saint Bernard wearing a Terrier’s collar.  Brother Gordon had no shoulders to speak of. It was like his long and ape-like arms simply grew from just under his collar and ended at two of the largest hands I’ve ever seen on another human being. His torso also grew as your eyes descended his enormous frame. His black polyester trousers were cinched with a fifty-inch black leather belt  just below his sagging man-breasts. Below the belt Brother Gordon’s torso continued for another foot-and-a-half. His enormous and distended belly was contained in the seemingly five yards of  black fabric that were his trousers.

Brother Gordon’s class began five minutes before Brother Gordon’s class began. That is, students were expected to be in line against the wall outside of his classroom five minutes before the bell. The line had a designated spot for each student to stand that corresponded to where students sat in Brother Gordon’s immaculately organized classroom. Students would enter his room in a specific order so they could neatly file into row after row of meticulously arranged desks.  Once at our desks we would remain standing until Brother Gordon gave us permission to sit. IF he gave us permission to sit.

The first week of class was the worst. Students who didn’t know how Brother Gordon operated walked noisily into his room and just flopped down in their desks. These students were violently thrown against a wall and humiliated in front of the entire class. Brother would have them stand with their arms extended out from their shoulders palms up. He’d then place a stack of textbooks in each outstretched hand and the students would have to balance them there until their arms gave out or they passed out. One of the two would usually happen within a couple of minutes and then we’d move on with our lessons while the punished students stood or laid there humiliated. Brother Gordon would simply ignore them and move on with his lecture, pausing now and then to look at them with disgust and snarl the word, Jackasses! at them.

Brother Gordon had rules. Lots of them. Here’s a short list of some I remember:

  • While sitting at your desk both feet must be firmly planted with the entirety of the soles making contact with the floor. At no point is your back allowed to make contact with the  chair.
  • When reading your textbook both hands must be used to retrieve it. Once it has been retrieved both hands must be used to support it while reading. At no point may the book make contact with the top of your desk.
  • When you are called on to read aloud, you must stand up straight at the side of your desk. You must read loudly and clearly without stumbling. If you stumble on a word then you are a jackass and must remain standing while the next person reads.
  • You are not allowed to bring your textbook home. These textbooks are the original ones I’ve taught from for over thirty years and I won’t have you messing them up like the jackasses you are. You have a notebook. Use it. Write down notes but DON’T LET THESE BOOKS TOUCH YOUR DESK!
  • When I ask you a question, you will respond with “Yes, Brother Gordon.” or “No. Brother Gordon.” I never want to hear you say anything other than those two responses to me.
  • We don’t laugh in my classroom. Laughter is for jackasses.
  • There are no bathroom breaks. Don’t even think to ask.

Despite being a tyrannical disciplinarian, Brother Gordon knew his stuff. He was, in fact,  a brilliant scientist and would spend his Summers at an astronomy research center in Nova Scotia where he worked as a researcher and consultant for NASA. It was at this research center the Summer after my freshman year, Brother Gordon suffered a massive heart attack and died.

I actually cried upon hearing the news. I hated his class. I hated him. He was a disapproving, mean son-of-a-bitch. But I also knew it was all an act. We were the new recruits and he was the drill sergeant. You see, Brother Gordon only treated freshmen like dirt. Once you were a senior, he spoke with you as an equal. He treated you with respect. Many times during lunch I would see Brother Gordon chatting with a group of Seniors and actually smiling. Even laughing on occasion. Now that he was gone I’d never have the benefit of knowing that man. I attended a memorial service in his honor. The church was filled to capacity with generation after generation of men and their families. Men Brother Gordon had taught throughout the years. Young minds that he’d shaped. The most profound moment was when the entire gathering of five-hundred-plus stood and sang a song Brother Gordon had taught his students generation after generation. Every person knew the song by heart. No words, no music was needed.

Brother Gordon’s been gone for over twenty-five years and I still know every word.

A star is a mass of incandescent gas

Inside a nuclear furnace.

Where hydrogen is turned into helium

At a temperature of billions of degrees.


R.I.P. Brother

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2 Responses to “Snappy Little Cookies!- Gingersnap-Raspberry Sandwiches! – 116 eggs, 92 cups of sugar, 92 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 104 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 106 recipes to go!”

  1. Tommy Salami Says:

    Thought you might want to hear a version of that song, sung by They Might Be Giants:

    I’m sorry you never got to know the man.

  2. Mary Gemmell Says:

    What was it with the no restroom breaks in Catholic School? I always wondered about the condition of the nuns’ kidneys. I always wondered how they conditioned theirselves to last for hours. Is this called divine intervention? I did get a chuckle out of this blog.


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