Cookies call for memories. Memories and coffee I'd say. Do you know the song by The Verve called Sonnet? It starts with a verse that goes: 'My friend and me, looking through her red box of memories...Faded I'm sure But love seems to stick in her veins you know [...]', well I really like that song, although our box of memories is brown. Well actually, it's not even a box: it's a vintage light brown leather briefcase, belonging to my husband and containing photos dating back to the early 20th century. He inherited it from his parents and, to joke, we call it the 'suitcase of horrors' because there is a series of pictures of some relatives of his who had emigrated to Australia that resemble characters from the movie Shining, like the twins and Jack Nicholson himself... Amazing!
We don't look through that case often, but when it happens it is usually on a Sunday morning, when we're both at home and can relax with lots of coffee, cookies and fruit. The recipes I'm sharing today, in fact, are both perfect for this type of long and easy breakfast: oat and spelt cookies with chocolate chips and pistachios and baked peaches and apricots.
The photos range from wonderful black and white family portraits to early polaroids and the subjects are mainly life memories and landscapes, many of Venice. The latter are among my favourite because I can see what has changed and what has remained and mostly, I just love to see what people used to wear, their hair styles, the fashion and so on. Besides, these old photos have a special feel, because, even though I don't know all the people depicted, they allow me to imagine other worlds, other times and other people's life. Like reading a book.
Sometimes Vittorio becomes the narrating voice. He picks out a particular photo and starts telling me all about the person in it or about the specific day the picture was taken. I reckon his favourites are the ones with his mother and his aunt. His mother was called Ernestina, abbreviated as Tina, and used to work at home as a seamstress, whereas his dad was a traffic policeman in Venice (how absurd does this sound, ah?). It warms my heart to hear him speak because I can see how proud he is to remember that his mum was a feminist for her days, the sort of woman who only cared about what is truly important in life.
She was from outside Modena and, compared to the women in Venice, she was definitely a feminist. She used to wear trousers, wander around the countryside on her bike and earn her own money (never a lot, but anyway...). Then, she met Gastone, Vito's father, and loved him so much that she had to leave her home town and move to Venice because... well, Vito had decided to come to the world before she had the chance to get married. The rest is history: first came Vito and then two other brothers. Initially they lived in Santa Marta, a poor area in Venice, then -when Vito was about 13- they moved to Mestre (a fact that has traumatised my husband for life, as he is really allergic to that monstrous city).
Every time we look at those pictures, he just can't help underlying that even when he was forced to move to Mestre, he kept going to school to Venice and having friends in Venice. He studied humanities at a school run by priests called Cavanis, between the Zattere and Accademia, which was originally founded by two brothers with the purpose of offering free education to poor children. Of course, the school underwent many transformations over time and it has become private and quite expensive, but when he was a kid, it still offered free education to talented students. Well... I'll let you imagine how proud he feels when he thinks of those years, when he was among the poorest in his class but also one of the best students. Not that his superior intelligence has helped us economically in any way... I mean, we're not poor but...well, we're definitely far from being rich!
Anyhow, even if I tease him, I enjoy listening to these stories. Besides, there are lots of pictures with him as a small kid all dressed as a saintly altar boy, looking so pure... when I know that he then became a total lefty and militate for a party that was called Proletarian Democracy. How funny life is! Ironic, don't you think? There are a couple of photos that have become special for me, also because... even if I won't tell you how many years have passed, I can still recognise him and his curious eyes in the face of that small boy. One I truly love is with him wearing a fancy hat and black coat eating candy floss along fondamenta alle Zattere. It was taken on a 21st of November, the day of the feast of Madonna della Salute, and he and his family were on their way home after having lit a candle to thank the Virgin. One thing is sure, after all these years he still carries the same appetite!
Speaking of appetite, I'm sharing two easy recipes: the oat and spelt cookie is mine, while the baked peaches and apricots is Tina's. Simple food, easy to make... yet delicious! Oh, by the way, Tina would also add cocoa powder to the fruit, so... feel free to do the same and don't forget to let me know if you liked them! Bye for now... and talk to you soon!
OAT AND SPELT COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS AND PISTACHIOS
Prep. Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes
(for about 10/12 biscuits)
1/2 cup organic oats
1/2 cup spelt flakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup crushed pistachios
2 Tbsp brown sugar
25 gr apricot jam
25 ml milk
30 ml olive oil (or seeds oil)
40 ml honey
1) Preheat oven.
2) In a bowl mix flour, oats, spelt flakes, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, baking powder, chocolate chips and the crushed pistachios.
3) In a small cup, blend milk, oil, jam and honey. Use a fork to stir well and make sure the honey is well amalgamated with the other liquids.
4) Add the liquid to the dry mixture, mix well and, using your hands, form small balls of dough of about 2 cm diameter and press gently on a previously greased sheet of parchment paper.
5) Brush with egg wash, sprinkle some brown sugar and some pistachios and bake for about 15 minutes at 180°.