Saturday, April 9, 2011

reluctantly, spring


Not long ago, I accepted an invitation to meet a new friend for afternoon tea and cherry pie in the communal kitchen of her high rise apartment building.  Joining the impromptu tea party were several women whom I had never met and, because my friend is well connected within the local food writing scene, I was eager to put my best foot forward.

In our correspondence prior to the tea, I conveyed my limited availability due to a later engagement and inquired as to what I might bring.  My friend replied that my timeframe was perfect as she had plans to attend a movie afterward; and then one word, ‘Poetry’.  Well, this certainly upped the ante.  I supposed it wasn’t all that unusual given the literary bent of the aforementioned crowd.  I could bring poetry.  How utterly quaint, no?

Because her request fell shortly before the proposed meeting time, I chose to cover my bases rather than press for more information.  As I scanned the bookshelves in search of good candidate, my gaze landed upon a blush pink tome filled with love poems by Neruda.  Romance could prove awkward I surmised, moving on.  Then I saw it, an anthology purchased back in high school titled, ‘Six American Poets’.  This soft bound book contained a careful selection of poetry from the likes Whitman, Dickinson, Frost and my personal favorite, William Carlos Williams. 

Then the thought occurred to me, what if I were expected to produce a specimen of my own crafting?  Seeing as I hadn’t written a stitch of poetry since 10th grade English, I managed, somewhat miraculously, to dig up a tattered blue pouch containing the culminated works of  four years’ high school poetry.  God forbid anyone ask me to recite a few lines.  I haven’t a clue what possessed me to unearth this relic of my writing past.  Fear of inadequacy would never hold a candle to the potential for embarrassment bound up in that folder like Pandora’s box waiting to sabotage my newfound credibility.  Still, I reasoned, it might be good for a laugh.

I sped into the city, casting an occasional sideways glance at the hapless stack of poetry strewn across the passenger seat.  Perhaps it would fare better to show up empty handed, I considered, but  instead spent stop lights quickly thumbing through pages in search of one or two hopefuls.

I met my friend in her stylish lobby where greetings were exchanged as she led the way to the shared kitchen space which doubled as a meeting place.  Introductions took place between forkfuls of pie and sips of green tea.  As conversation progressed beyond formalities, it was increasingly apparent that no one else had received the poetry memo.  I said a silent prayer of gratitude and carried on as though the book and folder were irrelevant and altogether invisible.   

One guest inquired as to which film our hostess would see after our gathering.  It was a foreign drama about an aging woman in modern day Korea, she explained.  The film had already received a fair amount of cinematic praise and she was very much looking forward to seeing it.  What was the title of the movie, wondered another guest.  ‘Poetry’, she replied.  Aha.  The name of the film was ‘Poetry’.  Hello, flashing light bulb overhead.  So much for the good old fashioned poetry reading.  How utterly Elizabethan of me. 

I liked these women.  They were passionate about food.  Maybe even more passionate than me.  They were writers.  They were welcoming.  They made time for pie and tea in the afternoon.  Where had they been all my life?  I owed it to them to divulge my amusing faux pas.  I owed it to myself to eschew my perfectionist tendencies in exchange for a good laugh.

So, I came out with it.  They laughed and I laughed.  We all agreed it was a story destined to be told and retold.  Someone mentioned writing about it.  I wasn’t so sure about that.  Then, the inevitable.  Would I read a poem after all?  Reaching for the anthology, I spoke of the works of William Carlos Williams and agreed to read my favorite of his poems.  My gracious new friends did not request I suffer the indignity of sharing my own poetic leanings.  Yet another good reason to favor this lovely crowd.

The poem I chose, ‘The Pink Locust’, is a metaphor in which the author compares himself to a persistent pink weed masquerading as a flower.  The vein of the piece is at once introspective, self-deprecating, and indignant.  “Who will deny me my place?” is the closing line and it seemed in the moments following my reading, that this sentiment was keenly felt.

By sharing the poem, I resurrected my foible, wrapped in pretty pink paper and presented to a willing audience in hopes that I, like Williams, would not be denied my place.  The warm reception which followed was all the proof I needed.

In keeping with the pink flower theme and because it is trying to be Spring outside, I can think of no more appropriate recipe to accompany this story than these delightful pink cookies.  Not long ago, I baked them batch for the national Bakesale for Japan and they were a big hit.  Like the pink locust, these cookies are persistent.  They beg to be eaten and I find it rather difficult to deny them their place (in my waiting belly).

pink cookies

This recipe is a slight adaptation of one found in ‘A Homemade Life’ by local author, Molly Wizenberg.  They taste best the second day, after the frosting has had a chance to seep into the top layer of the shortbread-style cookie.  Trust me on this one.  Be warned, they are highly addictive, particularly when chilled.  Their secret weapon is a touch of almond extract in the cream cheese frosting.  Wizenberg’s version calls for kirsch or cherry extract and I imagine it would be just as good but I do love the way the hint of almond flavor plays off of the tangy cream cheese.  Whether you opt for almond or cherry, the flavoring truly adds that je ne sais quoi and these cookies wouldn’t be the same without it. 

yields approximately 24 cookies


1 – 1/2 cups ( 3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted after measuring
3 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, rounded
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted after measuring
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 pinch salt
a touch of red or pink food coloring



In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and mix well. 

In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt until well combined.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until the flour is incorporated.  

Place the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap.  It should be a bit crumbly but not dry.  Shape the dough into a disc and wrap well.  Refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a floured sheet of parchment paper, roll out the dough to just under 1/4” thick.  Cut out either rounds, hearts or flowers, depending on preference.  Really, any shape will do.  Work quickly as the dough is difficult to handle as it softens.  If the dough becomes too soft, wrap it in plastic and return it to the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.


Place the cookies 1 – 1/2” apart on parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake one sheet at a time for 16 – 20 minutes or until edges are very lightly colored.  Chill the other sheet of cookies in the refrigerator until ready to bake.  Carefully transfer the baked cookies, still on parchment, to a wire rack to cool.


In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed, until fully combined.  Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed, until incorporated.  Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until satiny smooth and free of lumps, scraping down the bowl, as needed.  Add almond flavoring and 1 or 2 drops of food coloring.  Add more color as desired.  I prefer a very light pink, reminiscent of a cherry blossom.


Once the cookies have fully cooled, spread the tops with a generous layer of frosting; the thicker, the better.  Allow the frosting to set for about an hour before storing, to prevent smudging.  The cookies keep for up to three days in the refrigerator or for several months in the freezer. 

Adapted from the recipe for Jimmy’s Pink Cookies in ‘A Homemade Life’ by Molly Wizenberg.


  1. I love this story! It is (for better or worse) very much like something I would do. Good for you for fessing up.

    And I suspect I might know your lovely hostess...

  2. Here's to more 140 character correspondence that create opportunities for impromptu poetry readings and new friendships born. The cherry pie, as lovely as it was, could not hold a candle to the energy in the room, the joy of friends old and new and the beauty of that Williams poem. Brava!

  3. Tea,

    I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I felt it was too good a story to keep under wraps.

    Count yourself a fortunate soul if you are indeed acquainted with my dear hostess...

  4. Myra,

    I wholeheartedly concur! The pie was memorable but sweeter still was the company in which I savored it. Thank you for hosting such a lovely gathering. Here's to more like it! xoxo