A Martha Sandwich!- Lemon-Apricot Sandwiches! -176 eggs, 135 1/4 cups of sugar, 127 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 163 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 79 recipes to go!

January 7, 2011

Martha's Lemon-Apricot Sandwiches

André's Lemon-Apricot Sandwiches

Okay. So I’m back to a normal and more sane schedule. I’ve returned to baking with seventy-nine recipes to go. Today’s recipe, the first of 2011, didn’t quite turn out the way it was suppose to. I’m not sure if I didn’t use enough flour or if Martha’s recipe measurements are just a bit off. The cookies were still quite tasty but the texture was far too delicate to transport effectively and most crumbled as soon as they were transfered to the cooling rack.

Lemon-Apricot Sandwiches are a fairly simple recipe and not that different from Martha’s Pecan Lizer Cookies. Ground almond flour is mixed with regular AP flour and combined with sugar, butter, lemon peel, lemon juice and salt to make a shortbread-type dough. The dough is quite sticky and rolled out between two sheets of parchment paper. The sheet of dough is then frozen before being cut out with a round fluted cookie cutter . The rounds are then baked at 350 degrees for ten minutes. My cookies didn’t maintain the shape of their hard fluted edges but rather dissolved into a crisp tuile-like texture. A texture not conducive to supporting a filling.

I was still able to salvage a few to make about a dozen. They are quite delicious. Very lemony and sweet but far too delicate and crumbly. If I were to bake this recipe again, which in all probability I wouldn’t, I would add more flour to the dough.

Twas the day after Christmas when I made one of my far-too-infrequent trips to Baton Rouge to spend some time with family and friends. I landed in New Orleans where my parents picked me up outside of baggage claim in their van. My parents have always had a van. As a child it was an old hippiesque VW with a hole in the floor. I remember laying on my belly so I could watch the ground zooming below through the three inch opening.

I remember being involved in a fender-bender on the interstate the Summer after I turned sixteen. I was driving our old, brown and gold Dodge van. I was bringing my little sister, Michelle to her Summer camp classes at Louisiana State University when a wreck downtown caused traffic to come to a screeching halt. I was a moment too late braking while hurtling towards the crowd of paused vehicles. I ended up tapping  the back of a brand new Oldsmobile in front of me. My sister, Michelle who was about eleven years old at the time,  was not wearing a seat belt (they weren’t required by law back then) and fell below the dashboard uninjured. I didn’t drive on the interstate for months after that incident. The damage to the vehicles was minor but the experience turned me into a bit an overly-cautious driver. A trait, I’m afraid I still have to this day.

My parents now have a fancy Honda Odyssee with all the bells and whistles. The doors open automatically and there are lots of doohickeys to press and buttons to turn. Each section of the van has its own air vent where you can control the temperature and pressure.

The face of Louisiana has changed significantly since Katrina. Driving out of Jefferson Parish, the North Western tip of the New Orleans metro area, I could see the small suburban houses still sporting blue tarpaulins over their roofs. Several of the homes still had FEMA trailers parked in front while the owners undoubtedly were scrimping to put their homes back together one paycheck at a time.

Zooming along the I-10 towards Baton Rouge, we crossed the vast expanse of Lake Ponchatrain, a large body of brackish water whose contents flooded the city when the levees broke from the storm surge caused by Katrina. The bridge that crosses the Lake is forever long and offers views of the Louisiana swampland at its most dramatic and beautiful. Cypress knees creep out among the waves and trees covered in Spanish moss grow out of the marshes of thick grass.

My father spoke, interrupting the serenity of the landscape whizzing by.

“So, you still think Obama walks on water?”

This was his little nudge. My father has always found ways to press my buttons and has always taken some perverse pleasure in getting an angry rise out of me. Not this time, though. I wasn’t going to give in. A friend recently shared  a wise word or two with me. “When people press our buttons it serves us right. After all, we installed those buttons in the first place”  I simply laughed and responded “Yeah, Dad. And he turns water into wine.”

It takes a little over an hour to get to Baton Rouge from the New Orleans airport. Just as you enter into the Baton Rouge metro area, and yes, Baton Rouge has a metro area, you’re greeted by three colossal metal crosses that all Baton Rouge visitors have to pass through. They were placed there by one of the many mega-churches that have taken up residence within the once mostly Catholic city. My first thought was ‘Boy, they sure do take capital punishment seriously around here.’

Baton Rouge is now the largest city in Louisiana, stealing first place from New Orleans after the Hurricane scattered its citizens across the States. There is hardly a section of Baton Rouge that is not under construction as the local government scurries to build an infrastructure to support its growing populace. It’s very strange to go home and not recognize much. Right before the hurricane, or as the locals call it- the Storm,  my parents had just finished construction of their new home and put the home we grew up in on the market. Our little white brick ranch-style home with the small kidney-shaped pool in the backyard sold at a higher than normal price just after Katrina since the real estate market in Baton Rouge became flooded with buyers. Our home was not our home anymore. My parent’s new home, however stood proudly as a tribute to my parent’s vision of what retiring in style meant to them. It’s an enormous Acadian style home on a large plot of land with a deep gully in the backyard. The vaulted ceilings with elaborate moldings flow from room to room hovering above dark and beautifully gleaming hardwood floors. They built this home from scratch and every detail was to their specifications. It’s a grand Southern home worthy of any Southern home journal. My father  planted a vegetable garden in the backyard as well as several fruit trees which bear an array of citrus and figs each year. The house speaks to my parent’s prosperity and they are quite proud of what it represents to them.

To me, however, it doesn’t feel like home. My home was small. It was made of a series of tiny rooms. It was just enough space for our family of six and maybe a pet or two to maneuver around in. I find it ironic that once my sisters and I were grown my parents built a house that could’ve finally accommodated all of us comfortably. I grew up using a section of the foyer as my room and two of my sisters shared a bedroom their entire adolescence. Only now when we have homes and families of our own do my parents have enough room for all of us. I don’t think they see the irony in this. They don’t need to. They worked hard and sacrificed plenty to have the life they enjoy now.

I sat in silence in the living room. There was no tree. No ornaments except for a few shimmering boxes in the shape of stars. I giggled to myself. The boxes were all stars of David. Mom had unwittingly purchased Hanukkah gift boxes as part of her Christmas décor.  I didn’t feel a need to make this an issue, though. It added a bit of diversity to the room.

We sat and made small talk. I presented Mom and Dad with a gift I had put together. The gift was from myself and my sisters. It was a book of photos. Over the last few months, in addition to baking a ridiculous amount of cookies, I had scanned over 1800 photo slides from years 1968-1982 as well as transferring over 48 hours of family videos to DVDs. I took the photos and had a hardcover book created. It was lovely and my parents enjoyed it very much. Shortly after presenting my parents with the book my dad looked up with a blank expression.

“Where do we keep the Christmas cards?” – he asked my Mom.

She pointed him towards the box in the living room and he disappeared into his office. When he reemerged he gave me a heavy, sealed envelope. In it was a card and a pimp-wad of cash. Ones, fives, tens, twenties, and hundreds all crammed together inside a card with a snowman on the cover. On the inside my father had scribbled a quick note. It simply said, “Thanks for being a trouble-free son.”

I smirked to myself. Yup, I was a trouble free son alright. After all, its no trouble to shove whatever money is lying around in an envelope.

I spent the rest of the evening sitting and chatting with my folks and watching their three chihuahuas scurry about. I’m an animal lover. I really am but I hate these dogs. None of them are housebroken. They never have been and never will be. They yip incessantly to the point where I want to tear out my eardrums and they’re quite unfriendly. The only good thing about them is that they probably could all fit in a microwave at the same time.

I don’t really recall what my parents spoke to me about that evening because I was too busy watching these chihuahuas play out what seemed like a prison movie in miniature. Each would take turns sodomizing a stuffed animal in the corner. My mom found this endlessly amusing.

A few days later, my sister hosted a wine and cheese party at her house for anyone I wanted to invite. I sent out an invitation to over a hundred-and-fifty friends who still lived in the area. The weather that evening was terrible. A deluge of rain and wind made the streets under construction around my sister’s home quite treacherous. Still, over thirty people showed up. Many I hadn’t seen in many, many years. On more than one occasion I felt tears well up. Happy tears. There were former co-workers and students, actors and musicians, writers and teachers. It was wonderful.

In the South wine and cheese is never just wine and cheese. Mom made a shrimp salad. Dad fried a turkey in his new toy that fries turkeys without oil. There were rolls to make sandwiches and meatballs in a crockpot. There was a crudité and I baked a fancy croquembouche. There were several cheeses including a baked brie in phillo pastry and enough wine to ensure everyone was feeling the warmth of the season. It was quite a shindig.

This was the very first time my parents had met most my friends. It was the first time I witnessed two very separate parts of my life come together in one room.

It was the best gift my parent’s ever gave me.  For so many years I felt my parents, particularly my dad had only tolerated me. That evening felt like something more. It felt like acceptance.

On the last page of the photo book I gave my parents, I had written a brief  little epilogue.

“In our own strange way we loved one another as best we could each and every day.”

… and what do you know?

I guess we do.

3 Responses to “A Martha Sandwich!- Lemon-Apricot Sandwiches! -176 eggs, 135 1/4 cups of sugar, 127 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 163 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 79 recipes to go!”

  1. Chelsea Says:

    Awww, lovely holiday story, Andre! I bet that photo album was the best present your parents ever got too. I wish I could have been there at your party. And I do appreciate an update on the current state of B.R.! I have family there so eventually I’ll return. When I lived there I sort of formed the opinion that nothing ever changes there. Now I’ll be prepared for the reality. Thank you again for sharing. xx

  2. Chelsea Says:

    Oh, but you’ve put me right off Martha and her cookies!! I was never a fan before, but after reading about all the fiddly processes of the holiday cookies you made, I’ll take Nigella any day over Martha!! I love reading about your experiences so that I never have to do it myself! Good work Brother!

  3. Tommy Salami Says:

    Andre, I’m very happy for you. I wish we could have made your party, but I’m glad Sarah and I got to see you at the Chimes when we were visiting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: