…and “Bag-End Biscuits”
After a frenetic binge-watch of Breaking Bad (only my second viewing) and after seeing most of Malcolm in the Middle, I’m convinced that Bryan Cranston is the man I’ve seen most often in his underwear, with the exception of two other men. So—Cranston ranks number three.
Of course, my husband is the number one wearer of underwear in front of me.
Number two was my father. He was of the boxer variety (Bob and Bryan being of the brief variety). My dad would actually step out of the house (or even the occasional motel) to go pick weeds in the front yard. Maybe nobody noticed him sitting cross-legged in the grass in his relatively dingy t-shirt and boxers. On his feet, he would only be wearing socks, never slippers or sandals or shoes. Maybe nobody minded… I’ve assumed that, because the neighbors never called the police to report there was a strange man sitting in front of his house, pulling weeds, in his underwear. Or gosh, officer, there is this strange man walking around the parking lot of the Denver Motel 6, looking at license plates… no, he’s not doing anything weird, he’s just… in his underwear… and some socks…
(He liked to “chase plates.” Mom and dad would drive around, and he would observe license plates. A good day was seeing maybe 25 plates other than New Mexico. Canadian and Mexican plates were a welcome bonus. Hawaii and Alaska always elicited the response, “well, they’re a long way from home.” Dad gave up driving when it became clear he was an exceptionally nervous driver, and better off only being a passenger.)
My sister, mother, and I never really knew why he perpetually went out into his perceived yard (even if that yard was the parking lot of a Motel 6) only in his underwear. He was a peculiar person in many ways, but I’ve assumed since he was brought up in an incredibly repressive household, he figured he could finally be free (at least in this particular way) after he married and moved away from his parents.
Nevertheless, dad was also an intelligent man; he loved sports, yet never played much as an adult. He loved music, yet only played piano briefly as a youngster. He was generous and sensitive. He had a quirky and dry sense of humor. He also believed that if he belonged to a religion, it would be “cookie-ism.” He never let his diabetes get in the way of his sugar worship, however. These cookies would have been right up his alley.
Did you know that Tolkien fanatics established a special holiday just to read the works of the Professor? The Tolkien Society started this event way back in 2003, and it is held every March 25. It’s a good day to re-read a favorite short story, such as the delightful Leaf by Niggle. Or you could give up binge-watching OITNB and give The Hobbit a quick read.
I know I’m late for it this year, but this little post was something I prepared for the day a couple years ago and it goes along very well with these delicious cookies, which turned up in my original cookbook at just this place in this chapter. You’ll just have to mark your calendars for next year!
From “The Hobbit”—Bilbo’s Pantry
For a typical Tolkien Reading Day, I like to picture one of my favorite hobbits, Mr. Bilbo Baggins, reading his “morning letters.” He’s about to enjoy his day (his less noisy and more green day) when this incredibly annoying wizard intrudes, whose only mission seems to be destroying Bilbo’s cozy, complacent world.
After this encounter, I like to imagine Bilbo escaping into his comfortable and luxurious Bag-End bachelor pad (well, “scuttle” is the word Tolkien uses…); relieved that he can now spend his afternoon reading about Tookish adventures, certainly not participating in any such nonsense.
It’s a good thing he’s already baked some delicious biscuits to nibble on. Little does he know, he better enjoy them now, because those uncivilized and rude dwarves are going to take over his pantries tomorrow…
- 3 large oranges
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon soft salted butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
Using a microplaner or fine grater, remove as much of the zest from the oranges as you can. You should have at least 3 tablespoons; set aside. Cut oranges in half and juice them. If necessary, strain the juice; reserve ¼ cup and save the rest in a small bowl.
Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray or grease lightly. In a large bowl, cream the 1 cup butter, sugar, and 2 tablespoons zest. Add the flour and the reserved ¼ cup juice; mix well. On a lightly floured surface, pat and roll out the dough to a 6″ by 12″ rectangle, about ½” thick. Cut into 1″ by 2″ pieces. Carefully place on the baking sheet. Bake 16-20 minutes, until the cookies are just slightly brown on the bottom. Cool on pan for 2 minutes. Carefully place them on a rack and cool 1 hour.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon butter, remaining zest, and 2 tablespoons juice. This should have the consistency more of an icing, not a glaze. You might add a smidge more juice if you think it is too thick. With a recessed or bent spatula, spread about a teaspoon of icing on each cookie and leave on rack over the baking sheet for about ½ hour to set. Keep covered at room temperature. Makes 36.