I had another post ready for today. Or, more truthfully, I had written part of one that I eventually abandoned because things have shifted in the past few days in ways that made me realize I needed to write about something different. Part of it was the death of Maurice Sendak, someone who I always admired but never realized how much until he passed away. Part of it was the passing of Amendment 1 in North Carolina, enshrining in their state constitution a ban on same-sex marriage. And part of it had to do with President Barack Obama finally, officially, stating that same-sex couples should be able to get married. It’s been an emotional Space Mountain rollercoaster for me, up and down, and all I can do is just munch on these White and Dark Chocolate Blood Orange Cookies and ride it all through, hoping the endorphin rush helps sustain me until I see the light at the end of the dark tunnel.
I baked these cookies on Saturday for a picnic I was going to the next day up in Napa with a bunch of friends. It was a gorgeous day, warm and sunny, with friends and loved ones all lazing about, enjoying the company of each other, sharing food, giggling and grinning at practically everything and nothing at all. It’s the sort of day that you never want to end, the sort of day, when it does end, you sigh contently and say “that was practically the perfect day” even though you don’t quite remember any one detail that can stand out, making it perfect. The sun, the rolling grassy green hills, the laughter and the strolling around looking at whatever there is to look at all contributed to the perfection, but it was never the one element, but a product of the whole that created bliss.
Then the week started and reality set in. I came down with some sort of bug that waylaid me in bed and when I finally came around to checking into the virtual world of Twitter, I found out that Maurice Sendak has passed away. That man who wrote Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen was no longer in this world, passing on to the next one. I grew up with his books as a kid and learning that he was gay a few years ago made his magical world all the more rich and extraordinary in my eyes. I can’t place why that is specifically, other than that tidbit of knowledge of who Sendak was made me understand more about what his stories were about. Escaping into fantasy and dreams and trying to express childhood anger, all in the hope of earning love and acceptance all seem to make more sense when viewed through gay glasses. I was immensely sad when I found out that Sendak never told his parents about his relationship with his partner, a relationship that lasted 50 years. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not be able to share the love I have with my partner AJ to my parents. To have to hide that love for a lifetime, talk about an unbearable burden.
Which is why it hit doubly hard for me, when North Carolina’s Amendment 1 passed the following day. For 60% of the voting population of that state to institutionalize, in their constitution, a ban on not only same-sex marriage but domestic partnerships or civil unions sadden me. Sadden and made me furious. I felt sick, and not just from my illness, but emotionally and spiritually too. How could people vote to take away people’s right to visit each other in the hospital if someone was dying? Vote to take away health insurance for their partners and their kids? Vote to take away any legal recourse they have if their partner dies and their estranged family who they hadn’t talked to in twenty-five years tries to take their house and all their joint finances? Granted, those rights weren’t in place, not yet, not there in North Carolina, but 60% of the voting public there made sure that a minority population wouldn’t ever get them. I felt deep shame for that 60%. Fear is never a pretty thing to look at, and fear is exactly what drove Amendment 1 to pass. Fear of what? Two people who love each other living their lives together? Such a scary thing, love.
And then, like the rainbow after the storm, President Obama announced the following day that he had finally evolved on the issue of same-sex marriage. And though some people tried to makes politics of it, it didn’t matter to me. One of the most powerful people in the world finally said that he thought it was ok if AJ and I got married. I didn’t think it would affect me as much as it did, but somehow, it got to me. And hopefully it will get to others as well. Because what President Obama did was tell people across the nation, and across the world really, that it’s OK if you are gay. Gay and lesbians couples are real relationships. You won’t grow old and die alone. Trust me, as someone that grew up being told by everyone that this is what would happen to me if I was gay, this is a huge deal. Huge.
Here’s the thing: right now AJ and I are not married. People ask me all the time if we are or if we plan on getting married. There are many reasons why we aren’t. Not a single one of them has to do with us not loving each other or not wanting to get married. Sure we could have a ceremony, invite our family and loved ones to watch us make vows to each other. And yes it would mean something. But it wouldn’t be legal, not yet anyway. A few years ago, in that magical year of 2008, for nine months in California, marriage was legal, and we contemplated running out and getting married. But we decided that we didn’t want to get married on a deadline. We didn’t want to plan a wedding in less than nine months, when the rest of the world gets to plan their wedding in however long they want to take. We attended a few weddings during that time, saw many friends run off to the city hall to get married and all the while we said to each other, we’ll wait and see. And then Proposition 8 passed and our rights were taken away.
AJ and I do want to get married. We want to get married once, and do it properly. Friends and family flying in. Tears flow during the ceremony (I don’t want to, but I’ll know I’ll get hysterically choked up while saying my vows, trust me on this). Laughing and cry, sometimes both at the same time. Friends getting insanely drunk. Giant slices of cake being eaten, maybe even an overwhelmingly large dessert buffet table to go along with it. And yes we want it legal. We want that document with our signatures on it. We want the government sanctioned binding contract. We don’t want to be the couple who had four weddings: a spiritual commitment ceremony, a domestic partnership, a wedding in Canada, and finally a wedding here in California (yes we know someone who did all four of those). We want one big blow out. Also, we can’t afford to throw four weddings. Heck we can’t even afford to throw one right now. But we want the option at least to throw one.
We’ll get there. It’s clear that is where history is heading, where the opinion polls are moving toward. Since last year, the majority of Americans now favor legal gay marriage. When the word “marriage” is taken out of the question asked in the polls the numbers jump to 64% who want legal recognition of same-sex couples. History is on the side of progress, and it will happen. But I’m getting impatient and we all know life is short. I know two awesome gay blogger friends getting married this year alone, they aren’t waiting for the government. Part of me thinks AJ and I shouldn’t wait either. But we’ve waited this long. I only hope we don’t have to wait much longer.
I’m blessed that I live in a bubble here in San Francisco. Gay marriage is a bit of no brainer for most people in the city. None of my friends even consider it an issue of any sort, and many of them (usually my straight ones) actively campaign and support the marriage equality cause. A lot of them were with AJ and I on our picnic in Napa, lounging away, in bliss and ignorance of all that was to come this week. We enjoyed each other’s company, as friends do, nibbling on BBQ and cookies. Some of those friends were married. Some weren’t. I can’t image our day would have been any different if AJ and I were married as well. And I can’t imagine 60% of the population of North Carolina’s day would be any different if we were married either. I can only hope that with President Obama’s announcement, and the slow shifting of the American public opinion, soon it won’t make a difference for anyone. Soon no one will have to go their entire life without being able to share their love with their parents like Maurice Sendak did. One day this whole same-sex marriage issue will be a sad little chapter in a history book. But until that day comes, I’ll be eating these cookies, staring intently ahead, looking for that light at the end of the tunnel and riding the ups and downs of the personal-turned-political debate, clinging tightly to AJ for support.
White and Dark Chocolate Blood Orange Cookies
By Irvin Lin
I’m not going to lie to you. The stuff I wrote above about same-sex marriage and Maurice Sendak has nothing to do with food, much less these cookies. But this is a food blog and you come to my blog for recipes (or so I tell myself. How many of you actually make my recipes? Oh good, thank you, all three of you!). I could come up with a cutesy story of how this recipe uses white chocolate and dark chocolate, symbolizing interracial marriage, a legal issue that same sex marriage is often compared to. But even I’m not that tacky (white and dark chocolate? I think that might border on racist). Heck, I could even stretch the already thread thin metaphor and say the addition of the blood orange is me throwing some fruit into the mix, and we all know that fruit is slang for homosexual. But I’m not going to pander to you. These cookies are damn good cookies. They have nothing to do with what I wrote above. Enjoy them or not. Just make sure that the next time you have a chance to support same sex marriage you do. If you don’t, I’ll stop giving you recipes. And all three of you will be very very sad.
Oh yeah, as usual, I used some specialty flours in this cookie other than the usual all purpose. White whole wheat flour can be found as specialty stores such as Trader Joe’s and higher end grocery stores. Feel free to substitute regular whole wheat flour. I also used superfine semolina flour which is hard to find. Regular semolina flour is hard enough to find, but superfine is probably even more difficult. Feel free to substitute in regular all purpose flour for it, though the cookie won’t have the same “bite” as you would the semolina. If you use regular semolina, there will be crunch and grit to the cookie, which is lovely, but different. I also use whole milk powder which is pretty hard to find as well. You can substitute in nonfat milk powder if you wish, but the cookie won’t be as rich tasting. Finally, I used blood oranges which has a lovely tart sweet taste. If they are unavailable (as it is the end of the season) feel free to substitute clementines or tangerines in its place.
1 1/4 cups (285 g or 2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 medium blood oranges
2 1/4 cups (515 g) dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups (300 g) white whole wheat flour
1 3/4 (240 g) superfine semolina flour
1/2 cup (65 g) whole milk powder
8 oz (225 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 oz (225 g) white chocolate chips
coarse sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
2. Place the butter in a medium sized saucepan (preferably one with a silver bottom) on the stovetop. Turn the heat to medium and melt the butter, stirring constantly with a heat proof spatula or wooden spoon. The butter will melt, foam and then the foaming should subside, as the butter fat starts to sizzle and brown. Once the solid fat starts to brown and the butter smells nutty and fragrant, carefully scrape the hot butter and the brown solids into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment.
3. Over the bowl with the butter, zest the blood oranges with a microplane grater. As the zest and orange oils hit the butter it will sizzles, so be careful that you don’t burn yourself. Once you’ve grated both blood oranges, turn the mixer onto to slow speed, just to cool the butter and keep it turned on. Juice the blood oranges (you should have about 1/2 cup) and pour it into the saucepan you had the butter in (don’t worry about cleaning the saucepan). Turn the heat to medium and reduce the juice to 1/4 cup, half it’s volume, about 5 minutes depending on how powerful your stove is. Pour the hot juice in to the bowl with the butter and turn the speed of the mixer up to medium speed to cool it, for about 1 minute.
4. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon to the butter and juice, and mix on medium speed until sandy wet, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Add the vanilla extract and beat to incorporate. Add the baking soda, powder and salt to the batter and beat to incorporate, scraping down the sides once done.
5. Add the flours and milk powder to the batter and beat until incorporated. Add both chocolate chips and turn the mixer to low to incorporate throughout. Scoop and roll a 1 1/2 inch ball of dough (about 3 oz) from the bowl and place on the baking sheet. Squash it down into a 2 inch round disk. Sprinkle a pinch of coarse sea salt over the cookie. Repeat with the remaining dough. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until the sides of the cookies are golden brown but the inside of the cookie is still a lovely shade of tan. Let cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before moving them to the wire rack to cool further.
Makes 24 cookies