This month, for our online Lit Happens book group, Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm has us reading Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt.
On the Page
Before I talk about what I made and why, let's look at the book. Although Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt tackles tough topics such as grief and aging - think loss of a child, loss of a spouse, selling a family home to move into a retirement community - it is a beautiful book. And I love that one of the narrators is a Giant Pacific octopus named Marcellus.
Tova is an elderly woman of Swedish descent who cleans the (fictional) Sowell Bay Aquarium after-hours. She recently became a widow and is still reeling from the loss of her son three decades earlier. Her son, Erik, vanished into the Puget Sound and many believe he committed suicide.
Cameron is a thirty-year-old who just lost his job, his girlfriend, and his couch in his best friends' house. So, he goes to the Puget Sound to chase a lead on his biological father.
You can easily deduce that Tova and Cameron's paths cross, thanks to some cephalopod meddling. Marcellus, with his astute observational skills, knows that the two are related. And he ensures that they make the connection for themselves.
There isn't a ton of food on these pages, but there is some. When Cameron is traveling, he meets a vegan named Elliott. “'Hungry? Happy to share.' 'No thanks. Not really a pastrami fan.' Elliot’s eyes widen. 'Oh, this isn’t pastrami! It’s a Yamwich. ... You know, vegan? From that one place on Capitol Hill? They opened a kiosk here at the airport last year.' Cameron stares at the oily hoagie, loaded with thinly shaved slices of . . . something. 'You’re telling me that’s made from yam?'" No, I didn't make a fake pastrami sandwich out of a yam.
Another sandwich from Tova's kitchen. "Egg salad sandwich is tonight’s supper plan . . . again. All week, it’s been nothing but egg salad. (There was a coupon in last week’s circular: buy a dozen, get a dozen free.) Tonight, however, she can’t bear to eat another crumbly sandwich."
But what inspired me into the kitchen...Marcellus' musings about cookies...
YOU HUMANS LOVE COOKIES. I ASSUME YOU KNOW WHICH food I mean? Circular, about the size of a common clamshell. Some are flecked with dark bits, others are painted or dusted with powder. Cookies can be soft and quiet, moving soundlessly on their journey through human jaws. Cookies can be loud and messy, bits breaking off at the bite, crumbs tumbling down a chin, adding to the flotsam on the floor that the elderly female called Tova must sweep. I have observed many cookies during my captivity here. They are sold in the packaged food machine near the front entrance.
My Homemade Lorna Doones
I don't buy a lot of packaged cookies. But I do love Lorna Doone cookies for sentimental reasons. And I recently purchased over one hundred packets to hand out at the luncheon reception for my dad's funeral.
Here's my homemade version...
makes approximately 18 cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
1 cup flour plus more for rolling
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla paste (you can use extract, but I like seeing the seeds)
Also needed: rolling pin, baking sheet, parchment paper
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg. Then add in the flour and cornstarch and fold in until completely moistened. Press the dough together into a ball and place on a floured workspace.
Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Use cutters or a knife to form squares or rectangles. Place dough on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees.
Remove tray from the oven and let cookies cool completely on a wire rack.
They don't look like the packaged cookies, but they are delicious. And they might also be similar to the butter cookies that Tova wishes she would have been able to teach her daughter-in-law had Erik not died.