Today is December 1 and in 29 days I will turn 50. Here’s me in Atlanta, Georgia, just six months shy of my 4th birthday. Not much has changed since then (though I do miss those white patent leather Mary Jane’s).
Not long after this photo was taken, my parents packed up the station wagon and moved the family back to Baltimore, where I was born and where I’ve stayed ever since. For a long time, I hated that fact – that excepting four years in college (less than an hour away), I’ve lived in this town for much of the now half-century of my time on earth (in this incarnation anyway). But as I approach this milestone and as I watch my children move away, I am happy that I have planted roots here, that this is where I’ve chosen to write my history.
In an article he wrote for The New Yorker in August of 2011, Adam Gopnik wisely observed: “A child starts walking away as soon as she starts to walk—on the way out, from the very first day.” Clearly, this wasn’t my plan, at least geographically speaking — and perhaps in other ways as well. While it’s true I haven’t strayed too far from my zip code (from the ‘hood as I lovingly refer to it), I have certainly grown up over the decades. I’ve taken risks, made important and not always easy life choices, and made innumerable mistakes. I have loved, lost, laughed, and learned — most importantly not to take myself so seriously and to try to accept life on its terms.
You never know what is around the corner, even if it’s the corner on or near which you’ve lived for most of your days. I believe there is a plan that has already been designed for us, one which we are not privy to. It is our job to just enjoy the ride.
Chocolate Chip Mandel Bread (aka biscotti)
Growing up in Baltimore meant that for much of my life, I was the beneficiary of my grandmother’s simple yet spectacular cooking. Mandel Bread, or Mandelbrot (translation: almond bread) is a sweet, twice baked confection that often filled her cookie tins around holiday time. Here is my take on it.
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 – 1/2 c. sugar
3 large eggs
pinch of salt
2 t. baking powder
2-3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. grated lemon zest
squirt of fresh lemon
2 t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (can also add nuts or dried fruit)
1/2 t. cinnamon
Directions: Beat eggs and sugar. Add the oil and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients, except the chocolate chips. Mix well and gently fold in chips. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Grease hands with oil and shape dough into two large loaves. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, sprinkle with additional cinnamon, and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and slice, placing wide side down on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon and sugar. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees and return to the oven for approximately 15 minutes or until brown.