Friday, March 31, 2006

Rosemary Shortbread & Literature

God I love Mac's Backs. Thursday night, Ellen Klages and I did a reading there to support The second annual James Tiptree Award Anthology. Ellen did all the heavy lifting--explaining the Tiptree and the anthology which has, among other things, Raphael Carter's "Congenital Agenisis of Gender Ideation," one of my favorite Tiptree winners.

Mac's Backs is a slightly old-fashioned feeling bookstore, in a really good way. It's a store front bookstore in Coventry--a couple of blocks of Cleveland where there are clubs, restaurants, a fabulous toy store called Big Fun, antique stores and a kind of freewheeling atmosphere. If you need incense or those beaded curtains to hang in your doorway or the complete writings of Che Guavera, go to Coventry. Mac's Backs is over twenty years old, although it hasn't always been at its current location. It's a narrow store front with a loft and a basement. It's new and used books including a vast collection of paperback sf. More importantly, Suzanne, one of the owners, has been a driving force in supporting local writers. She stocks chapbooks of poetry. Mac's Back's has been having open mike poetry nights for something like twenty years. When they started, no one was doing it. It feels the way I expect an independent bookstore to feel.

Reading at Mac's Backs is the opposite of reading at some place like Borders. It's intimate. It's personal. The place smells like books. There's no coffee shop with pastries, although right next door is Tommy's, the vegetarian friendly restaurant. It's menu is from the days of the original Moosewood Cookbook, so there is lots of cheese and alfalfa sprouts and tempeh, but also meat pies and great milkshakes. And all around are unexpected used books. It's the opposite of those paperback places where there are racks and racks of romance novels. Next to the door at Mac's Backs is a list of books that people are looking for. The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break was on the list for awhile. I think I remember Motherless Brooklyn being there, too. This time I picked up (new, not used) a trade copy of Never Let Me Go for my book group.

For the reading, I made cookies. I believe in bribing an audience. I brought a basket of chocolate chip cookies and brownies. I realized at some point that I wanted to have an option for people who don't do chocolate so I decided on shortbread, and found a marvelous recipe. Suzanne said it was the best pastry she'd ever had.

I promised Meg the recipe, so here it is:


While this calls for four herbs, I wasn't sure I liked the idea of sage and parsley in a cookie, so I just used two, rosemary and thyme.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon superfine granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon each finely chopped fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 egg white, lightly beaten
16 small fresh parsley leaves
16 very small fresh sage leaves (1/2 inch)
16 fresh rosemary leaves
16 (1-inch) fresh thyme sprigs

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 °F.

Stir together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and chopped herbs in a bowl, then add butter and mash with a fork. Mix with my fingers until mixture forms a dough. Divide dough in half and pat each half into a 6 1/2- to 7-inch round on an ungreased baking sheet. Crimp edges of rounds with the tines of a fork and cut each into 8 wedges with a sharp knife. Lightly brush with egg white and arrange 1 leaf of each herb on each wedge. Brush herbs lightly with egg white and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Prick each wedge once with a fork.

Bake until golden, 15 to 17 minutes. Recut wedges while shortbread is hot, then cool completely on sheet on a rack.

You will not be surprised to know that Bob and I have still not settled on a program of diet and exercise. Although he did take the leftover cookies and brownies to work.

Austin published a really lovely account of the evening, which I mention here because it is so positive and says nice things about Ellen and me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe!

April 02, 2006 12:43 PM  
Blogger Erin O'Brien said...

Effing shortbread kicked effing ass.

Oh yeah, the readings were good too.



April 02, 2006 9:20 PM  
Blogger Responsible Artist said...

One of my favorite desserts is fresh pinenut and rosemary tart with melted caramel and whipped cream. I didn't ever think I'd find anything to compete with chocolate but this does. So I can imagine the cookies and can't wait to bake 'em.

April 02, 2006 11:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have you considered ' ship high in transit'? and something? it is less far from guano than feeling and falling. ya know?


there's always 'ddkwut', the word in the wheelchair accesible word verification, AND you get to make up your own meaning. (i think)

September 14, 2006 11:41 PM  

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