Cracking Cookies with Martha!- Maple-Pecan Shortbread -245 eggs, 1861/4 cups of sugar, 189 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 236 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 30 recipes to go!

September 25, 2011

Martha's Maple-Pecan Shortbread

André's Maple-Pecan Shortbread

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from my friend, The Baroness Von Shortbread, who reviews all shortbread recipes with a heavy dose of candor. Maple-Pecan Shortbread cookies are a bit different than most shortbreads and in all honesty should not be labeled as a shortbread since it contains egg as a binder. Most shortbreads are butter, flour and sugar and maybe vanilla extract. These cookies included ground toasted pecans, maple syrup, maple flavoring with a sprinkling of turbinado sugar crystals and a pecan half on top. What did the Baroness think of this loosely interpreted shortbread recipe? She actually held court with her council of tasters and here’s what they had to say:

“Nice, rich, fall-ish.  The butteriness of the butter and the butteriness of the pecans complement each other perfectly” — Countess de Cookie

“Tender texture with a lingering mouth feel” — Delicacy Discriminator

“The pecans and sugar make it!  Complex layers of flavors with a hint of maple.” — Cookie Critic

“As you know, I am a purist.  However the pecan/maple flavor and sugar crystals are both delightful.  It’s the toasted pecan on top that takes it out of the shortbread family for me and steals the spotlight from the shortbread.”  Baroness

So there you have it. The Baroness has spoken. They are yummy and a perfect cookie to welcome Fall but it is not, technically, shortbread. Long live the Baroness!

It’s been a difficult week for Dan and me. We lost a very special person this past Wednesday and although the blogosphere is filled with stories about the loss of a pet, I’d like to share one more. It’s the least I can do for our sweet girl.

I didn’t like cats. Well, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t think cats liked me and therefore I kept my distance and they, being cats, kept theirs. I had lived with two evil Siamese cats back in the nineties. My boyfriend at the time was a mincing, lisping Cajun boy named Troy with a talent for writing children’s nursery rhymes and mixing alcohol with pills. He had two cats named Absotively and Posilutely- Absy & Possy. I hated these cats. More so, I hated the smell these cats gave our house. I was working two jobs at the time and so the upkeep of the home was up to Troy who was currently unemployed, having been fired from all previous jobs due to sticky fingers around the cash register.

You’re probably thinking, if he was so terrible, why did I stick around? Well, when you don’t like yourself very much, and believe me I was not fond of myself in the nineties, you make really bad decisions. I dated Troy because some part of me thought he was the best I could do. When I would come home in the evenings Troy would usually be passed out smelling of booze. The house would be a wreck. There would be half-eaten food all throughout the house, our house that smelled of cat urine and feces. There is truly something evil that happens between the front end and the back end of a cat because nothing went into that animal smelling like that. Cleaning the litter box was a disgusting chore, a chore I wouldn’t have minded doing if either of these cats had any fondness for me. They didn’t. When I came home they would hide, choosing only to emerge once I was asleep to move about the house tearing apart anything they wished. When I would complain to Troy about the cats destroying a shirt, an important document, a rug or a sweater, he’d shrug and reprimand me for leaving it within the cat’s reach. That was the problem. Absy, and Possy were cats, and by nature, nothing is out of a cat’s reach.

This was my cat background when I first met Dan. When we first began dating I had to get used to his two kitties, Olivia and Mia. Olivia was a chubby fur-ball with dark stripes and patches of white under her chin and on each of her paws like fuzzy white slippers. One of her back paws had one toe that had a patch of dark fur as if she accidentally stepped in a mud puddle. Mia was an orange tabby with a bit more energy. She liked to play and investigate and whenever we’d come home she’d throw herself on her back exposing the lighter coat of her tummy in a posture of submission. Olivia would never offer a position of submission. It would have been beneath her.

Dan found Olivia back in 1997 at a pet store that ran a kitty adoption service through a local animal shelter. She was already grown and was at least two or three years of age. She had been sequestered from the other cats with a sign above her cage reading, “I have a Kitty Cold.”  Dan, being a sucker for a sad story, fell in love with her at that moment. He kept the name the agency had given her, Olivia. I like it when people give their pets proper names. They are, after all, members of our family and are deserving of names you’d give your offspring. How many of us would name our son, Rex or our daughter, Prissypants? It’s difficult for me to become emotionally connected to an animal named, Señor Puddikins no matter how cute he or she may be.

It was difficult at first adjusting to life with Dan’s two cats although these cats were very different than the green-eyed demons that lived with Troy and me. First of all, Dan’s home never smelled like cat. He was very attentive to keeping their litter box clean. He also made sure they all had fresh water and food twice a day. I had to get used to sharing a bed with Dan and the brood, though. Absy and Possy would never have slept in the bed with Troy and me. Nighttime was for exploring, mewing and destroying. Not Olivia and Mia, though. They slept when we slept and cuddled close to us enjoying the warmth of our bodies.

Over the past seven years, I came to love Mia and Olivia and in the past two years we’ve enjoyed the company of our third addition, Walter, an orange male of incredible girth, boundless energy and no talent for subtlety.

Dan and I had developed voices for Olivia and Mia, how we imagined they would talk if they could. Olivia, who Dan had taken to calling “Fatty” for her aggressive persistence in the pursuit of table food and her beer-gut sans beer, was given a distinct whine, much like the comedienne, Rosanne Barr. Mia by virtue of her name and her affinity for jumping onto our bellies and kneading imaginary dough, was given a clipped Italian dialect offering advice on how to make the perfect pizza, a pizza that Olivia, no doubt, would quickly dispatch.

For the first time in my life I grew to appreciate cats. I could see their distinct personalities shine through their often misunderstood aloof veneer. I grew to love them and they, in turn grew to love me as their other daddy.

Each year Dan would tell me how old Olivia was. Growing up we had an outdoor cat called Mama Kitty. We called her this because she kept getting pregnant and my parents, being über-frugal, never bothered to get her fixed. One of her litters produced exactly five mewing kittens. It was the mid-eighties and my sisters, obsessed with the English pop band, Duran Duran named each kitten after its members. There was Simon, Roger, John, Nick and Andy. Roger lived with us for the next twenty years.

I thought as neglected and independent as Roger was, surely Olivia would make it till her twenties. About a year ago, Olivia began to lose weight. We brought her to the vet and was told that she was developing problems with her thyroid. We were given ear drops and sent home. Olivia still played, still cuddled, still ate, still went in the litter box, still make her Wookie-like sound whenever bacon was being prepared, still aggressively grabbed food from our plates, still managed to jump higher onto places she shouldn’t be better than any of our other cats but she was diminishing. It was difficult to call her Fatty anymore. Dan and I knew that she’d soon leave us and just a month ago we both agreed that she wouldn’t survive another year. We both would become very sad during these conversations about Olivia’s future but agreed that she’d let us know when it was time.

Tuesday, this past week, when I got home from work I noticed while preparing dinner Olivia hadn’t come out for her usually growling dance for scraps. I called Dan at work to tell him I couldn’t find her. Finally, after tearing through the house, I discovered her in a ball under the bed in the guest room. I pulled her out and could tell she hadn’t cleaned herself. Olivia had always been meticulously clean. She was weak. She was tired. I put her in her bed in the living room and in a desperate attempt to get her to perk up, I prepared a strip of bacon. I placed it before her and she turned her back to it, choosing to face the wall instead. I called Dan and told him to prepare himself. Olivia had decided it was time.

When Dan got home he held her and wept. I did, too. We decided to let her rest that night in the guest room, alone and undisturbed. In the morning we’d bring her to our vet as our last act of friendship. Dan and I held each other and cried through the night. In the morning we wrapped Olivia in a clean towel and cried even more. She was barely conscious and her breathing had slowed. She rarely blinked and her eyes were filled with tears. So were ours.

We drove early Wednesday morning to our vet’s office but was told that she was not in. The assistant then directed us to another clinic and called ahead for us so we wouldn’t have to wait. When we arrived they had me fill out the paperwork. I only got about halfway through the form before I began to shake and sob. I hadn’t experienced that kind of grief in a long time. Dan took the pen from my hand and completed the paperwork. We handed Olivia to the nurse so that she could be prepped. We were then led to a room to wait. They brought Olivia in to us still wrapped in the clean, white towel and we said our tear-filled goodbyes. Our sweet girl laid motionless on the table. Dan and I wept, petting her behind the ears and giving her little kisses. Dan became overwhelmed while waiting for the doctor and left just as the doctor was entering. I held my face next to Olivia’s and the vet administered three injections. Placing her stethoscope to Olivia’s chest, she quietly confirmed Olivia was gone and told me to stay with her as long as I wished. I remained with Olivia for only a moment. I wanted to be with Dan. I gave her one last kiss and told her I loved her and thanked her for making Dan and I so happy. I stepped out of the building and found Dan in tears in the parking lot. We gave each other a long and sad hug.

Both, Dan and I knew this day was coming and as prepared as we thought we were, it still side-swiped our hearts a bit. This was the first loss we experienced together. We will miss our little girl, our Fatty, our beggar, our Rosanne, our sweet Olivia.


2 Responses to “Cracking Cookies with Martha!- Maple-Pecan Shortbread -245 eggs, 1861/4 cups of sugar, 189 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 236 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 30 recipes to go!”

  1. Carol Says:

    Mourning with you both…

  2. Thomas Pluck Says:

    Sorry for your loss, my friend. I’ve always been a cat person. It takes effort to gain their affection. Olivia sounds like she was quite the character, and she led a very happy life. I mean, you fed her bacon, what more could a creature want but affection, bacon, and to nap whenever they damn well pleased?

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