Why So Sour, Martha?- Lime Flowers! -270 eggs, 199 3/4 cups of sugar, 202 sticks of Butter, and 251 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 16 recipes to go!

January 21, 2012

Martha's Lime Flowers

André's Lime "Flowers"

As a child, I always loved the cookies called, Lemon Coolers. They were a simple lemon-flavored cookie dusted with confectioner’s sugar. They were delicious, light, and refreshing. I don’t even know if they make them anymore since I haven’t bought manufactured cookies in years, save the Girl Scout cookies. (I’m a sucker for the Girl Scout sales tactics. In fact, I think we could save the real estate market by lowering the legal age for licensed realtors to seven.)

Martha’s Lime Flowers were quite reminiscent of this childhood favorite. Buttery, light, crispy, with just a touch of citrus, my co-workers and I enjoyed these tremendously. I, however, didn’t have and couldn’t find a decent flower-shaped cookie cutter that wasn’t less than six inches in diameter. Honestly, who needs a cookie that’s a half-a-foot wide? Instead, I used a star-shaped cookie cutter and cut the hole in the center with a cannoli mold I had purchased earlier last year to make Brandy Snaps.

The dough for these cookies was just a basic sugar cookie concoction of flour, sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, salt, with the addition of lime juice and  lime peel. After all the ingredients were combined, the  dough was then refrigerated until stiff enough to be rolled and cut into the appropriate shapes. After baking, the cookies are given a generous dusting of powdered sugar and allowed to cool completely.

Not a terribly interesting cookie to write about, I’m afraid. But certainly a terrific cookie to enjoy. The recipe yields much more than what Martha indicates, so if you’re looking for a cookie that serves a large group of folks, this might be the one for you.

It’s a cold Saturday morning in Bloomington. Last evening, rain fell down on the frozen ground turning every sidewalk, every road, every inch of town into a large, treacherous ice-rink. I dined with a friend and emerged from the restaurant onto the street where we were only able to take tiny, baby steps towards the car parked a block-and-a-half away. We shuffled slowly and awkwardly lest we slip and fall onto the cold, hard bricked walkway. I drove us back, gripping the wheel, white-knuckled and cursing as I skidded and swerved through the slush.  We passed many ambulances in the downtown area where emergency workers were tending to, not stranded motorists, but pedestrians who’d slipped on the icy pavement, breaking bones and tearing ligaments.

Needless to say, I am not venturing out of my hotel room today, but rather, wrapping myself in a warm blanket with a cup of cocoa and watching bad cable while writing this post.  There’s a clanging sound just outside my window emanating from the frozen nylon flags knocking against the steel pole in the frigid breeze. I find the sound fairly serene. I see the highway patrol cars motoring down the highway just a few hundred yards from my frosted window, probably on their way to deal with the umpteenth accident the morning.  No, I won’t be venturing out. I’m sure there’s still plenty to see in Bloomington, but not today. Not in this wintery mess.

I had a friend request come through on Facebook recently that knocked my socks off. It was from someone who made quite an impression on me as a uniformed, pre-adolescent student at Saint Thomas More in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The request simply came from someone named, Mirna Stomes. At first I didn’t know who this person was, that is until I opened the request and saw her photo. Time had changed her very little, and her exuberant smile had grown even more so over the years. It was my sixth-grade religion teacher, Sister Mirna. I didn’t even know she had a last name. We hadn’t spoken in over thirty years, although I thought of her fondly all this time and, suddenly there she was again. Of course I accepted her request and sent her a rambling email that basically asked, “What have you been doing for the last thirty years?” She responded that after her time at Saint Thomas More had ended, she was transferred to a convent in Michigan where she cares for the elderly nuns in residence. Her email was sweet and sincere, just as Sister Mirna had always been. Her words glowed with thoughtfulness and love, just as her words always had. Although, her answer could’ve been summed up in two words- “Serving Him.”

I’ve known a lot of Catholic nuns in my life. I’ve certainly written a lot about them. Mostly, humorous observations. I’ve had two Sisters in my family, both passed away in 2011 within months of each other. A lot of nuns get a bad rap. Many deservedly so. I’ve certainly had negative experiences with a choice few. Not Sr. Mirna, though.

As a non-practicing Catholic, and a skeptical and sometimes cynical agnostic, I struggle with the notion of holiness. I don’t believe one can refer to the bible as being divinely inspired unless we look at every other literary work and ask ourselves the same question- “Where did this inspiration come from?”  Those of you that read my rambling posts will recognize I include a lot of quotes from various authors. I think these quotes are inspired because if they weren’t how could they inspire me? Perhaps the same divinity, the same muse, the same genius that inspired the apostles to put pen to paper, did the same for other  secular souls?

I struggle with religion because I don’t believe in objective moral truth. Life has too many fuzzy edges filled with ambiguous situations. I’ve tried turning to the bible in troubled moments for guidance, but too often the advice is misleading or irrelevant. It was, after all, written for a different time, for people whose lives were shorter and whose problems were more dire. It’s difficult for someone like myself with all my first-world problems to relate to rules written to maintain order in the chaotic ancient world. I have, however found comfort in other texts. I imagine this is not unique to my understanding. So, in my thinking, there are others who have been, what I would deem, divinely inspired.

Like I said, I struggle with the notion of holiness. I don’t think Sister Mirna ever has, though.

I remember a Spring afternoon in 1979. It was recess. I stayed behind in the classroom while the students played out in the courtyard. I was weeping in the empty room, the lights turned off so no one would see me sobbing. One of the boys had punched me in the face, egged on by another boy as they were on their way out of the classroom. The teacher hadn’t seen it. It was a random act of cruelty. Like climbing a mountain, he did it simply because I was there. My nose bled and I held a handful of tissues over my face in an effort to stop the bleeding. I sobbed quietly, stopping every now and then to blow out the blood filling my head into the soaked tissue. Sister Mirna walked in to prepare for her class. She saw me in the corner. She said nothing. She didn’t have to. She didn’t ask what had happened. She didn’t need to. She didn’t tell me to suck it up and be a man, like so many of the harder edged nuns would’ve. No, she simply put her arms around me and pressed her cheek against my brow and whispered a soft, sweet prayer. She did what she believed was right. She comforted me.

For someone who doesn’t believe in the notion of holiness, I believe Sister Mirna has a heart that is divinely inspired.

While I don’t believe in objective moral truth, I do have on caveat. Love. Love is truth and Sister Mirna lives her life in its service and I am humbled by, and thankful for all she is.

So, I have a nun-friend on Facebook and I get little message from her every now-and-then. Mostly requests for items in one of the many games she plays on social media. A slot machine on Slotsville or a chalice in Casteville. I imagine she has to fill her time in the long lake-effect winters of Michigan.

I had posted a status update on Facebook. It was a quip I exchanged with a fellow hotel resident here in Bloomington. The traveler asked me, presumptuously, “Where do you worship?” I responded, “At Crate & Barrel.”  The traveler didn’t appreciate my irony. Many friends commented on this status, Sister Mirna included. She simply commented, “I would’ve said, ‘In my heart.'”

I wish I had the spiritual fortitude of this remarkable woman.

Maybe she knows the secret to that elusive notion of holiness?

Maybe I should send her that chalice after all.

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