The day after my finals, second year, a small cat followed me home. I saw her a few blocks away from my apartment, in the nicer part of the neighborhood, near the Victorian houses. The cat was so little I thought her half-grown. She was friendly, so I petted her head. When I left her, she decided to follow after me. It was a bit frightening – traffic, city streets – so I walked slowly when we crossed streets. This went on for about four blocks, and when I got home I went inside my building alone. Guilt drove me back outside. There she was, waiting as if she knew I’d come back for her.
After a night in the bathroom, I took her to the vet. She had fleas, several half-healed battle wounds, was underweight, and had probably been on the street for a week or so, or so thought the vet. She did not have a microchip. As silly it as sounds, I knew she didn’t. Maybe “suspected” is the better term, or “secretly hoped”. I left contact information with two veterinary offices, the local shelter, and checked lost pet ads for a month. Nothing. It was just a feeling, but I did not think anyone would come forward for her. I worried about someone worrying about her, but simultaneously I liked having her here. You see we’d become friends instantly. We understood each other’s language, that silent sort of sensing of moods and feelings. We have lived together for a year and three months now. For the longest time, I wouldn’t commit to a name, because of a twinge of fear that someone would claim her once I did. Instead, I called her Little One, then Coco, which somehow became Cookie, which has stuck so firmly and sounds so oddly right that I can’t change it. Maybe because she is kooky and eats cookies.
I shouldn’t read anything into the story of how Cookie the cat and I came to be a family. It was just a coincidence that I found her the day after finals ended, the logical side of me says. There are so many possible reasons as to why no one turned up for her, a young probably purebred cat. What I do know is this: the timing was impeccable, even if we ended up being a cliche. She saves me from feelings of emptiness and loneliness. What is certain is that we humans need some sort of companionship, someone (even a cat!) to need us and to affirm our existence. And whether it is coincidence or the work of a universe with a mysterious master plan that brings people (and cats, and dogs) our lives, I don’t know. I’m happy and grateful that I’ve got something that works for me.
Maple Gingerbread Biscotti
Makes roughly 15 pieces | Adapted from Tartine, and originally from Chez Panisse
Heaping 1/4 cup of sliced pecans
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, very soft
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 – 2.5 tbsp maple syrup
1 large egg
1/2 cup each AP flour and whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp butter (melted) and 1/2 tbsp maple syrup for wash (optional, if you would like a little more sweetness)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Toasted the sliced pecans on a Silpat/parchment-covered baking sheet for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted and very slightly tanned.
In a large bowl, cream the butter. Add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, maple syrup and egg and beat until smooth. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder and mix until just combined. Stir in the toasty pecans.
On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a log of roughly 2 inch diameter. Set the log on the Silpat/parchment-covered baking sheet . Glaze with butter and maple syrup if desired.
Bake the biscotti for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned and firm to the touch. Cool the biscotti log for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board and cut on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices. Return the slices, cut side down, to the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are toasted. Cool completely.
The biscotti can be stored for weeks in a airtight container.