Sunday, July 13, 2014

The word for world is forest

These are days to try your soul. You went from worry, to sorrow, to fear, to rage mixed with sorrow and then you went numb, until the fear came again.

You keep everything charged- your cellphone, your computer- just in case. There's bottled water in the hallway, cat food too. You keep as many of the doors as you can closed, keeping the windows out of sight, as if a plank of wood would do much help would they shatter inward- who knows- maybe it would. Sleep in pants, not shorts, just in case. Take short, perfunctory showers. Be prepared.

Your first instinct is to deny, deny, deny. But you know it is true. You know it can happen. People are people. Hate is hate. You open Facebook and all you see are the us and them, the propaganda, the provocation. It feels like a toxic cesspool, to be honest. Nothing can grow here. Despite our geographical proximity, we have so few opportunities to stand face to face and look each other in the eye.

"You don't have to call me every time there's a siren in Tel Aviv," your sister says. "I've checked in on Whatsapp." "I know," you say, and you do, but you want to hear her voice, exasperated as it is. You go about your day as normally as you can: job searches, work, cooking with friends. Others are much braver than you. They go out, they socialize, the travel far distances. Not you. You prefer to stay close to home if you can, to be in a place where at least you have plan of action. You can't always though. "Listen," you tell the cat as you're leaving the house, "if there's a siren, go into the hallway, stay away from the windows." She just flicks her ear at you and goes back to watching the birds. She can be so stupid sometimes.

Your heart-rate speeds up every time you hear the high whine of a motorcycle passing by. It's a strange way of going about your life. You water the plants. You show your neighbor where the public shelter is. One minute you are crouched in the hallway, waiting to hear the tell-tale boom that means a rocket has landed or been intercepted, the next you are sitting in your living room, finishing Americanah.

You are one of the lucky ones. The very, very lucky ones.

You've been thinking a lot about an interpretation of Deuteronomy 13: 18 that you once read (though you cannot, for the life of you, remember where): "And He will grant you mercy, and have compassion on you": In the face of great cruelty and violence it takes an extra measure of grace to remain compassionate and merciful. So much so, that compassion and mercy are considered gifts from God. Those words feel apt these days. May we all, in Jerusalem and Hebron, Tel Aviv and Gaza, be granted that extra measure of compassion in these days and all the days to come.

I'm a stress-baker. It's a thing, for-reals. And when I stress-bake, I don't want anything elegant or delicate. I want chocolate and brown butter, butterscotch and salt. I want comfort food in the form of what is essentially a big-ass chocolate chip cookie. This is what my roommate and I were confronted with when Deb's (of Smitten Kitchen) Blondies came out of the oven. We ate almost half of them right there and then. I put the rest in the freezer, because otherwise I knew I would just pick and pick at them until they were finished. To be honest, that strategy has been only semi-successful, since I now find myself making excuses to open the freezer. Make these, take a bit of comfort.

Brown Butter Blondies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

8 tablespoons (113 grams) butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup flour
3.5 oz (100 grams) dark chocolate, chopped
a handful of walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 f.  Brown the butter. Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often until the butter turns a lovely golden-brown color and begins to smell amazing and nutty. Remove from heat.

2. Combine the butter and brown sugar, and mix until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Then stir in the flour, salt, chocolate and walnuts.

3. Spread batter into a buttered 8x8 pan. Bake for 20-25,  until set. Cool and cut into small squares. Eat in peace and quiet.

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