January 8, 1999 is a date I remember well. I woke up to the smell of smoke and panicking voices. My home was on fire.
I had just finished my third semester of college and decided to take a semester off before transferring to a new college. To save money, I moved home. Home was a small rambler in a tiny town in northern Minnesota. This was the only home I had lived in besides my dorm room. Home was with my parents and my brother, who was 16 at the time.
It's funny what I remember, now 14 years later. The perpetual fire alarms in a college dorm prepared me for a quick exit. Pants, shoes, coat, cat. I kept repeating that phrase over and over in my head until I had them all. The cat practically jumped into my arms when I called for him. This is the cat who hated being held. It's funny what they know.
I remember my brother exiting the house with only a towel, still soapy hair, and an empty fire extinguisher. I remember waiting at the neighbor's house for the train to pass so the fire trucks could arrive. I remember being able to stomach only fruit for days. I remember the outpouring love and generosity of our neighbors, friends, family, and strangers. I remember the house being so so so cold in the days following the fire as we sifted through our charred belongings.
As traumatic as a house fire can be, it changed me for the better. Losing all my belongings was terrible and not so terrible at the same time. I can relate to the part of Fight Club when his apartment gets blown to shreds. He's devastated and yet liberated. That's exactly how I felt. Sorrow for my stuff and the realization that it is just stuff. The comfort I found was not in my stuff. The comfort I found was in the people around me. My family. My friends.
The fire started with a space heater in my brother's room. An old space heater. It short circuited and caught a couch on fire. Even worse, it was sitting on the couch. Within minutes, the fire was in the walls. Fire extinguishers put it mostly out...until we opened the windows to let the smoke out... No one was hurt. We lost nearly everything. We were able to salvage a few boxes worth of smoke damaged stuff.
My parents now live in a beautiful new home in the same location. In my life, I strive to not fill a large home with a plethora of stuff, but instead to fill my life with memorable experiences and authentic connections with people.
In honor of my house fire today, I share with you a recipe for Fire Hot Shortbread in the shape of broken houses (OK, maybe a little corny and gruesome but fun anyway). Before you make them, check your smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, practice a fire drill, and call a friend. Then grab a glass of milk because these cookies are smokin'.
Fire Hot Shortbread
Servings: plenty; Time estimate: about an hour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
- Combine the flours, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, add the butter. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and cream well. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined and crumbly. Form the dough into a ball, flatten slightly, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- On a lightly floured surface, gently roll out the dough so it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and place on the prepared pan. Freeze for 10 minutes.
- Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are beginning to brown on the bottom. Let cool on the pan for about 10 minutes, then finish cooling on a wire rack. Store in a sealed container.
Nutritional facts per serving (24g): 123 calories; 7.9g fat; 20mg cholesterol; 115mg sodium; 11.8g carbohydrates; 1.2g protein
Print this recipe. Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson.