Baking for an event is no easy feat. This week, my interfaith group was having its annual cookie exchange and like every year, I couldn't think of what delectable dessert would bring me joy--not for eating purposes but for baking. Something during this cookie journey took me back to my grandfather and I was immediately drawn back in time: how he was one of my biggest cheerleaders in life, how his wife and children were amazed at his personality change since I was born, how he asked me to make his tea (aka chai latte) each day even if it meant waiting until I got home from school, and so on.
My grandfather, known throughout his life as being the most strict and disciplined individual, lived and worked in India for most of his life. He was known to never celebrate or acknowledge any of his children's birthdays nor was he known to laugh much, so they said. His work was his life. He never envisioned living anywhere else. His four children were all happily married living in various parts of the world and he was blessed with many grandchildren.
Things changed quickly and drastically for him when his youngest daughter became a widow at the age of 30 with three young children in tow. He quit his hard-earned high-positioned job, sold his house, and moved to the US to live with my family. Everyone who knew him was stunned at the drastic changes he made but that didn't alter his decision.
My memories of him are not like they described. He celebrated all of my birthdays (I still remember the shock on my mother's and grandmother's faces when he walked to a bakery after work in the hot, Indian summer to hand-select my 11th birthday cake in order to surprise me). I remember him as the man who would smoke cigarettes daily (apparently since his teens) but gave this habit up in order to accommodate my dislike for it. I remember him as a man who never ate any food outside of what he was used to but the day I brought home muffins from my 7th grade cooking class, he gave it a try on his own and asked me to make him a batch every week from that day forward. Were these his ways of letting me know that he understood how the sudden loss of my father was affecting my heart, mind, body and soul? Was he telling me that even though I had been daddy's little girl for the last 10 years and would never be so again, that I should trust he would take care of me? Little did he or I know how that one request for making muffins would start me on the road towards baking to heal.
Sadly, my grandfather passed away the day before my wedding, the day before I was officially in the hands of another man whose responsibility would be to take care of me, "till death do us part". I wish I could have told my grandfather how much his life changes meant and how I truly appreciated the love he showered upon me. I know he would have loved to see me recreate his favorite cookie. For all of this and more, I am dedicating my first blog post to him. I love you, my dear Nana (Grandfather). Thank you for literally everything. Rest in peace.
Rose Cardamom Shortbread
makes 2 dozen
1 cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups+ 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp dried rose petals
2 tsp rose water
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
4-5 cardamom pods, crushed
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cream butter together with sugar, baking powder, and salt for about 3 mins.
Add rest of the ingredients and mix until blended.
Roll onto a floured surface. Form into a log about 3 inches in diameter. Freeze for 10 mins. Cut and bake for 8-10 mins, until edges are golden.
(Recipe adapted from Food for 7 Stages of Life)