On the first day of Chinese New Year, I picked up the phone and called home.
I’m not a big chatter on the phone, and usually make calls only on special occasions.
I spoke to my mum first – for quite a while – as she updated me about family news and told me about the reunion dinner with the extended family the night before.
She then passed the phone to my dad, we spoke briefly about my return this coming weekend, and I hung up.
Later, I dialed the number that I didn’t have saved on my phone but one that I’d memorized by heart – the familiar number that reached my grandparents’ house.
My grandma picked up – “Hello?”
“Nai Nai, xin nian kuai le! Happy New Year!” – I burst out, in my rusty mandarin that embarassingly needed to be polished.
Recognizing my voice, she began speaking quickly and rapidly, and I had to strain my ears to pick up the words and understand them. My mandarin had definitely deteoriated after a long lack of practice, and I found myself struggling to reply her questions in my mother tongue – something that made me blush in shame. It was hard to relate even simple thoughts to her, and in that moment, I so desperately wished I had the same proficiency in mandarin as I have in spanish.
I later spoke to my grandfather, who told me about some painful shoulder aches that he’s been having, attributing them to old age. My heart contracted upon hearing that – I wish I could return his health and youth to him.
When I finally finished the conversation, I hung up, my heart heavy.
I know I’ll be seeing my family in one week, but still, it makes me sad to know that I live so far away from my family, even if it was a choice that I took myself.
During times like these, when there is nothing more that I can do except being on the other end of the line, hearing my family’s voices through Skype, I am so much more aware of the oceans of literal distance between us.
It’s not easy being away from home, even when you’ve made a second home away from home.
Today’s recipe is a grain-free version of my grandma’s browned butter almond cookies – cookies I’ve raved to you about before.
When I think of almond cookies, I think of my granny and her cooking in the kitchen, her well-oiled palms rolling balls of cookie dough, one after the other.
I think of my granny, with her beaming smile and embracing arms, holding out a plastic container of cookies in her hands.
These cookies are not exactly the same, but even then, they are still very good.
While they don’t evoke the childhood memories that I have of my granny and her cookies, these almond cookies are definitely worth baking.
The ingredients are simple, and the cookie dough is easy to bring together. When you have the dough ready, roll teaspoon-size balls of cookie dough between the palms of your hands, then flatten each ball into a flat circle. Press a sliced almond on top of each circle of dough, and then bake until slightly golden brown.
I know you’ll enjoy these as much as I did.
- 1½ cups blanched almond flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 1½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 20 sliced almonds
- Pre-heat oven to 325 deg Fahrenheit (approx 160 deg Cel)
- Combine almond flour, salt, baking powder, ground cinnamon in a bowl and mix well
- Pour the coconut oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup into the dry ingredients and stir well until you get a homogeneous mixture (it's ok if the dough is sticky)
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper or a silpat and use a teaspoon to scoop the dough
- Roll each teaspoon of dough into a ball between the palm of your hands and flatten it as much as you can. Place the dough circles on the prepared baking sheet, leaving one finger of space in between each cookie, until all the dough is used up.
- Press a sliced almond on top of each dough circle.
- Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until almond cookies have turned slightly golden brown.
- Cool cookies for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet then remove to a wire cooling rack.
- Once cool, store in an airtight container, or better yet, eat them all on the same day.