By: Wendy Rhein
At 20 months Sam is very clear about his needs: his special music must start when he wakes and go on again when he goes to sleep. Throughout the day it is music that soothes him and engages him when all else fails. Overwhelmed? Music. Overtired? Music. Shortout the general pissiness of an almost two-year-old? Music.
This summer I took the boys to a bluegrass concert. I was poised for it to be a bust because it was late in the evening after a day of playing in the sun. Nate curled up next to me, feet tucked under him, leaning in with his eyes closed. Sam sat on my lap, back rod straight, entranced by the banjos and fiddles, opening and closing his hands, finger tips to finger tips, the picture of joy and amazement.
He learned to snap before he could walk. When he was twelve months old his pediatrician was shocked to see him snapping with both hands while rocking out to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” in his waiting room. He brought out two other doctors to see little Sam snap. Sam just bopped his head and drooled.
I love this about him. Music has been a constant source of comfort in my life as well and like for many of us I know that music is intertwined with memories in such a way that an old song immediately calls up visceral memories of a first sweet kiss or a college road trip with girlfriends. When I was pregnant with Nate I played him music all the time (and was so thankful that I had an office and not a cubicle so I could inch up the volume when I felt the need or felt the extra kicks). His favorites during the end of my pregnancy included Queen, Martina McBride, and John Denver. I developed a birthing playlist and Nate was born to the sounds of the Village People’s YMCA and John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads. I know, I know. I was nine months pregnant, irrationally nostalgic, and huge. Cut me some slack. They seemed like good choices at the time. To this day, Nate loves music with a beat you can dance to, a ditty that Dick Clark would give a 10.
With Sam, like so many things, I wonder where this love comes from. Were his birth parents musical? Did his birth mother play music for him while she was pregnant? Was there music in their home? What did he hear? He loves Bob Marley – did she play him reggae? And what about his penchant for standing up and bouncing to A Capella choirs like the Straight No Chaser my sister has given him? Where did that response come from?
I will never know the answers to my questions about his history and his cell memory. As an adoptive parent, I can’t say he has his mother’s eyes or Uncle Joe’s laugh and that’s ok. In fact it can be a good thing. This is just part of the gift of Sam that I get to unwrap and cherish every day – the unknown looks and half smiles, the blossoming personality that is at times impish and at times ages old. And his deep love for music.
My recipe this week has nothing to do with music but is just plain tasty. I am sure there is a song somewhere that would work – something by Jimmy Buffet. These margarita cookies are savory and sweet, crisp and soft. I wonder if there is a pina colada version of this cookie out there … may need to work on that.
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.
2/3c powdered/confectioner’s sugar
2 egg yolks, room temp. Separated
Pinch of salt
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 medium orange, zested
1/2c coarse sugar (I use organic sugar with a coarser grain and deeper color, sanding sugar would work too)
2t flaky sea salt
Put the softened butter in a mixer bowl and beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat until silky. Beat in one egg yolk, salt, zests and lime juice. Switch to low on the mixer and add the flour, beating just until incorporated. You want to be careful to not overbeat and can mix any wayward flour in by hand if needed.
Turn the dough out onto a counter, make a big ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge.
After it has chilled and is easier to work with, take one package of dough and form it into a log (working on a clean surface) so that the end result is a log of dough that is about 1 inch in diameter. The length is irrelevant if you get the thickness right. Do this with each package. Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for two hours. You can also freeze them at this point for about a month for ready-made cookies.
Preheat your oven to 350 and line 2 sheets with parchment paper. While the dough is chilling you can put together the coating. Whisk the second egg yolk in a small bowl to use as a glaze.
In another bowl mix the sugar and salt together. Spread the mixture on some wax paper.
Take one log out and unwrap it. Brush it lightly with the egg yolk, using a pastry brush. Roll the log in the sugar/salt mix, pressing the mix in gently so it sticks if needed. Think of it like rolling sushi – use the plastic wrap to help it along, rolled tight. Using a sharp knife or dental floss, slice each log into cookie circles about ¼ inch thick. Place the cookies on the sheets and be sure to leave about ½ inch between them because they will spread a little while baking. When you’re ready to roll the second log, take it out of the fridge. You want to be sure the dough is chilled when you are working with it.
Bake for 12 minutes or until they are set but not browned. The yolk glaze on the outside may brown a bit and that’s fine.