I have not had as much time to bake lately because the holidays are over and, incidentally, there are not as many excuses for cookies, cakes, etc., but luckily it was Valentine’s Day this past week. I had friends over for a belated get-together Saturday. There were strawberry-basil roll out cookies and a baffled discussion about Bill Maher’s inexplicable bro-mancing with Milo Ypsilanti or whatever that little dickhole’s name is and we somehow got into a Internet YouTube hole where I discovered my newest celebrity crush, Reza Aslan. Check out this cutie! Smart too:
I hope your Valentine’s Day was similar. What’s more romantic than a discussion about world religion, Islamaphobia, and when does free speech/open exchange of ideas cross the line to the point you’re metaphorically yelling, “Fire” in a crowded theater?
I’ll tell what’s more romantic! Literary love! Instead of a list of books this week, I have a list of my favorite real life literary/artistic couples of all time. And, if you’re the kind of person who likes mixing spicy and sweet, you will love the shit out of these strawberry-basil roll out cookies.
Recipe: Strawberry-Basil Roll Out Cookies
For roll outs, you essentially use the same basic ratios you would for any kind of drop cookie and then add flour until the dough is firm enough.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup pureed strawberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
3 cups flour (I think you could get by with a 2 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
About 2 tablespoons of dried basil (I added it to taste, so I’m not completely sure how much I used.)
1. Puree your strawberries and set them aside.
2. Mix the dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
3. Cream your butter and sugar.
4. Add the extracts, egg, and pureed strawberry. Use an electronic mixer on medium to beat everything into an even texture.
5. Gradually mix in your dry ingredients. Add more basil if desired.
6. Refrigerate the dough for half an hour.
7. Roll out the cookies between parchment paper. Use any shapes you want. I used hearts because Valentine’s Day.
8. Bake the cookies for 8 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
9. Frost with a basic vanilla frosting and enjoy.
Verdict: Much like Snoop Dog’s friendship with Martha Stewart, it shouldn’t work but somehow it kind of does.
I’m not fan of mixing sweet and spicy. If someone tries to feed me that chocolate with chili powder or whatever, I gag, but I actually thought these were pretty decent and my friends loved them. I added way too much flour though, which diluted the flavor, so I recommend cutting out half a cup if you make these at home.
The Greatest Artistic Romances of All Time
Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West
When a love letter takes the form of a novel, that’s pretty god damn special. Virginia and Vita’s romance was an affair tolerated by both women’s husbands. Their relationship was beautiful, passionate, and intense while it lasted and the pair parted as the closest of friends. This challenges the overly-romanticized notion that you have a solitary love of your life and that putting one person on a pedestal above anyone else is the only way to love truly. Virginia and Vita eschewed consciously prioritizing partners. Both women were capable of loving multiple people profoundly at the same time and I think that’s pretty damn cool.
Leon Trotsky and Frida Kahlo
Okay, wow. I’m apparently really into affairs. Wonder what that says about me. As much as I adore the murals in the Detroit Institute of Art, I fully admit Diego Rivera was a tremendous asshole and Frida deserved better. She found that (briefly) while housing Leon Trotsky when the Mexican government granted him asylum. Frida and Trotsky had a love affair in which they covertly communicated by slipping letters into books and speaking to one another in English in the presence of their spouses (Trotsky’s wife spoke no English and Diego’s was terrible, no matter what that 2002 biopic would have you believe). I would love to be a fly on the wall to the epic intellectual pillow talk between these two…
Joan Didion and John Dunne
For the more traditional, I’ll throw you a bone with a conventional but amazing literary power couple. Some people crave the seemingly effortless symbiosis John and Joan had. They’re the Lily and Marshall of the literary circle. They told each other everything, were spouses but also best friends and confidants who acted as one another’s artistic mentors. The strength of their marriage was made heartbreakingly apparent in The Year of Magical Thinking. After John’s passing, Joan’s first thought was, instinctively, “I need to talk this over with John.” She quickly realizes this is no longer possible. But, hey, look at it this way – If Joan Didion can survive without John Dunne, you can get through whatever shit you’re struggling with right now.
Susan Sontag and Annie Leibovitz
This is my ideal romantic relationship. As someone’s who has been-there-done-that with traditional relationships, the John/Joan route is not my tempo. Susan and Annie’s love reminds me of what Maggie Nelson wrote in The Argonauts, speaking of her husband Harry Dodge – “I feel I can give you everything without giving myself away.” Not everyone’s romantic goal is longterm cohabitation, eventually culminating in marriage. For some, a perfect romance means – paraphrasing Leibovitz’s words – having someone who helps you through your life while you maintain your own independence. Annie and Susan loved each other fiercely, but lived separately. The two never shared a home, but had apartments within one another’s view. Being an artist means learning to be alone in a room for long hours without going insane. This was a romance that not only respected that need, but was built around it.