Double Berry Linzer Torte
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
-William Stafford, A Ritual to Read to Each Other
Post by Anna
Winter in Seattle doesn’t come on like the page-turning first snow on the East Coast. Here it sets in quietly, like a slow death. Everything is going fine, and then some time after Thanksgiving you realize you haven’t seen the sky in a month. Morning turns into evening into more evening, as the days blend together in a low hum of cold and damp. You re-instate the four o’clock coffee, your once impeccable style is reduced to Gortex, and the kitchen becomes the most promising place you know.
This winter’s political climate has been a particular shade of dark. This has always been the season of giving and feeding, but there’s a new urgency to connect as we brace for whatever is coming—or open our eyes to what has always been there. The darkness around us is deep.
One of the best memories I have from the terrible end to 2016 is a simple meal of soup and bread at Café Presse with my entire family. We had spent the better part of the week at the hospital with my Bubbe watching her body finally fail after a 97-year-run, and none of us had eaten a real meal in days. When Bubbe unexpectedly woke from a coma with her appetite—an apparent miracle in her state—we spent the day by her side laughing and shooting the shit, grateful for an extra few hours of her old, bright self. With a little peace of mind, we snuck away for a few hours to grab a bite to eat. In the month when holiday parties and family get-togethers must be planned weeks in advance, there we were, spontaneously across the table from each other on a Monday night at an unfussy, empty French restaurant, exhausted and warm and smiling, celebrating Bubbe’s good day. That night my grandmother, a woman who loved to eat, had her final meal of scrambled eggs and ice cream, and died the following day.
The primordial, unshakeable will to cook and eat, even at our most immobilized, is the ultimate antidote to despair. In the weeks that followed the election, I found it hard to do much of anything useful but donate online, call representatives, and cook. I cooked for hospital visits, for the new neighbor, for community meetings, for dinner, for sanity. It’s a reminder that even when things aren’t going well, we keep going. We feed ourselves. We show people we care about them. We keep a routine. And when a certain person gets elected, we add “call congress” to said routine. Sarah Searle said it beautifully, these tiny acts in the kitchen are no substitute for other kinds of action, but they are acts we desperately need, just the same.
I didn’t grow up eating this sort of thing, but a Linzer Torte always held some sort of grandmotherly mystique to me. Supposedly it’s the oldest cake in the world. And if it can survive every political regime in Austria since 1696, perhaps we can too.
Linzer is traditionally made with redcurrant or plum jam, but is the perfect vessel for any leftover jam or berries. David Tanis’s recipe called for cranberries, which I had lying around from Thanksgiving. I cooked them down in a half-pint of strawberry jam that I had canned over the summer for exactly this purpose: a reminder in the deepest throngs of winter of the brighter days that come.
So in these last dark days, go cook something nice for yourself, or someone else. The revolution needs you, it needs you to build coordinated political action into your routine, and it definitely needs you well-fed.
Makes: 1 11” torte | Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes | Cook time: 30-35 minutes | Equipment: Fluted tart pan with removable bottom
I adapted this recipe from David Tanis, from the New York Times
Notes: Tanis’s recipe calls for more sugar and boiling the cranberries in water. I swapped some of the sugar with tart cherry juice and lemon juice. I also found the dough needed a bit more flour to hold—an additional ¼ cup didn’t sacrifice any texture in the end result. Also, the dough is quite soft because of the butter and nuts, so it really does need to be frozen to work with it. Don’t skip that step!