Day 251 – National Chinese Almond Cookie Day

A what now? A Chinese Almond Cookie? What the hell is that? I’ve never heard of such a thing. You mean a fortune cookie? No? Just an almond cookie, but from China? Is this a thing?

For answers I turned to the internet and it was the folks at MobileCuisine.com that gave me the run down. Essentially Chinese Almond Cookies are a Chinese pastry that are similar to an almond biscuit. They come from the Canton region and are typical in the southern and southeastern of China where they are often enjoyed on New year’s and are sometimes given as gifts. They are round, flat cookies and are adorned with an almond sliver on the top. According to traditional Chinese medicine, almonds are thought to be anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. In some Chinese restaurants, they are served to cleanse the palate after several courses, rather than being regarded as a dessert. I found a recipe for them, this one coming from CopyKat.com. I’m not exactly sure the exact recipe this one was “copying” outside of a general Chinese restaurant, but it looked easy enough – I just had to get some almonds.

Today had some twists to it to go along with my cookie dilemma. The first one was a surprise visit from my cousin Maggie who was in town for the weekend. To call her a cousin is odd because she is actually the daughter of my first cousin and someone who I have seen grow up since she was born. She seems more of a niece rather than a second cousin, but technically, that’s who she is to me. She was in town with a friend for a quick getaway and weekend excursion to Newport. She had texted us earlier in the week to let us know she would be in town, so we made some plans to meet up on Sunday. We ended up heading to brunch at about 11. It was great to see her too. She met us at the restaurant and filled us in on all that was happening in her life. She moved from West Virginia right after college to Albany, NY where she is now a rising star at a little company called GE. She seems to be loving life – enjoying the new surroundings, the new work, the new experiences. She just seems to be doing things right and it was exciting to hear her talk about all that’s happening in her life. Maggie, as well as her brother and sister, will always have a special place in my heart. When they were very young, they were very much a part of my life as I used to share a house with their family in Connecticut and then I followed them up to New Hampshire when they moved there. When they moved down to West Virginia, we obviously weren’t as close, but I’ve kept my ears open to see how they were doing. They have all grown up to be fine young adults. They are some of the best people you ever want to talk to too. They’re very chatty, interesting, funny and just great to be around. That’s what it was like at brunch – just being around someone who brings joy to the table. Lola was interrogating her, as Lola can do quite skillfully, and Maggie was just giving us the scoop. She’s a pretty great kid, although I can’t call them kids anymore. She’s just a great person and we were so glad to see her. That’s a fun way to start the day.

The next twist happened when I was on my way to the store. I decided to swing by Cherie’s house (Lola’s sister) and drop off some peanut butter and jelly cups that I had been promising her. My plan was just to leave it at the door, but Cherie was just inside the door when I got there so I went inside to say hello. Little Calix, who was under the weather was sleeping, but Brix was there too lounging on the couch. He was not feeling great either but he gave me a giant smile when I walked in the door that just melted my heart. I was talking with Cherie quickly and then looking to make a quick exit (those cookies weren’t going to make themselves). That’s when Brickie asked if I would play a game with him and he brought over the box of Chutes and Ladders. How could I say no? So we played a game on the floor. It was a Spiderman version of the game but Brickie insisted we play using his 12″ Spiderman and Ironman figurines which made it more fun, but crowded the game space a bit. Brickie caught every ladder I think in his lucky spins and he pretty much crushed me. Then he wanted to play another game, so I played that too. I’m not sure what game it was but it had colorful names, a wheel you spin to move around and color and fruit themed cards. I was a giraffe and Brickie was a computer, although he kept changing his game piece. Apparently that’s allowed. We made our way through the maze and I actually beat him on this one. Then I had to go. Brickie wanted to play another game, but I had to get back home to start cooking. He was sad to see me leave (and that made me sad too), but I was still glad to have played those games with him. It was a nice little visit and any time I see those kiddos it brings me joy (seeing Cherie too).

I went to Clements next and I got the almonds and I also picked up some other stuff too. I got the fixings to make some soup for the week and I picked up some steak tips and asparagus for dinner. I got home about 5 pm which was a little later than I had expected to be home, but it was for a good reason. When I came in, Lola was in her jacket with her headphones in and she had either been outside or was heading that way. She looked sad so I asked her what was up. Today was actually the five year anniversary of the day her Dad died and she was feeling it. Sometimes that feeling of grief and loss will hit you and it just takes your breath away, especially when it is triggered by a milestone like five years. How could that have been five years ago? It seems like it was just a few weeks ago. The memories were flowing through Lola’s head and giving her heavy boots. She decided to go outside and do some pruning. Our yard is a spot where Lola feels her Dad and his presence is everywhere out there from the wood pile which was chopped using his own might and axe, to the rose bushes he always took such good care of and to the jetty that he had built using his own two hands. I am not sure where she went, but she was out there with him. I imagine she was even talking to him out loud and appreciating the late day sun which was slowly falling over the western skyline.

I stayed in the kitchen and made the cookies. They were super easy to make, although the dough was kind of crumbly. Had I more time, I would have used the knowledge I have gained about chilling dough before making cookies. That would have let them set up more efficiently, but I didn’t have the time to chill dough for hours. I just made them and while I flattened the cookie on the sheet pan, they were definitely crumbly. They cooked slower than the recipe said they would too, and I actually had to add about five minutes of extra cooking time. They came out looking pretty good, I guess. I really had no point of reference here to know what they should look like.

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When Lola came inside, it was time for dinner and even though I had the steak tips ready to go, I asked if she wanted to get Chinese food. That would be a way to honor her father as there are few people that enjoyed Chinese food more than he did. Lola loved this idea so I ordered the typical Mellow Chinese food order (which is a little of everything) and I went to pick it up. I also picked up some Cokes too and Lola enjoyed one with her dinner in a glass full of ice, just like her Dad would have liked it. We served it in big bowls with chopsticks and we gave a quiet little toast to her Dad. He would have loved this celebration and it was a fitting tribute. A delicious one too.

Conveniently and unexpectedly, my dessert had stayed in the whole Chinese food theme. I served a cookie to Lola after dinner as I was cleaning up. I was curious to see what she thought. Again, I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like, so I’m still not sure if it was an exact replica or if it had gone horribly wrong. I had already tasted it and it wasn’t bad. It was crumbly and it really did have a biscuit quality to it. The dough was buttery and smooth and the taste of almond was present throughout thanks to the almond extract. It was a good clean cookie. Lola was kind of confused too because she also had never heard of this kind of cookie. She carefully nibbled each bite and let the flavors settle on her tongue. She said it had a good texture with a crunchy outside and softer middle. She like the almond flavor. She kind of wanted something else in there and I could see that. I personally think that if they were covered in powdered sugar they’d be awesome, like the almond cookies you have at the holidays. But that’s a different animal. We both thought it was a good cookie, we were just confused. The mystery of the Chinese almond cookie still prevails.

It was a whirlwind day with some unexpected turns, but sometimes that’s how it goes. You just have to roll with the changes. I made and tasted my first Chinese almond cookie so I can say it was the best Chinese almond cookie I have ever had. I think it came out alright, but you never know. That’s the problem with these days when you celebrate something you don’t know what it is. But you give it a try. You say why not, and you go ahead and make it or seek it out, then you try it. That’s real celebration. That’s actually the way Lola’s Dad would approach any kind of food. He’d give it a try. If he liked it, he’d say “Far Out” and if he didn’t like it, he’d spit it out. Why waste your time? So a fitting tribute to him on a day upon which he was very much on our mind. The Chinese part of that was just an extra god wink that let us know he was with us in spirit too.

Next up: National Cinnamon Crescent Day

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