By Office Manager Jeanne Langdon
I was looking through the old Maryland’s Way cookbook to find something to bake, to help advertise the soon to be released 50th anniversary edition of the cookbook, when a sentence in one cookie recipe caught my eye: “These will keep indefinitely.” I thought of Patrick.
Patrick is a young Brit I met on a flight from Paris to Iceland last April. He was on his way to San Diego to begin a five-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. The PCT is the West Coast version of the Appalachian Trail, only the trail is longer, the mountains are bigger, and the gaps between sightings of civilization are much larger. I have hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail, and I have known a couple of Georgia to Maine through-hikers, so I know how challenging that “easier” trail can be. The Pacific Crest Trail winds among some of the highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and right past the place where the Donner Party met its fate. During the flight, Patrick explained about his preparations for hiking the trail: mailing boxes of provisions to himself at various post offices along the trail, and how he would be hiking “bonus miles” into town to retrieve them, and planning how much water he would have to carry for each segment of the trail and where it would be available. He told me about “trail angels,” volunteers who hike in to resupply water caches or bring hot meals to the places where hikers are likely to be camping. And finally, he gave me the web address of the blog that he would be writing along the way: pjgspct.blogspot.com
I have been following his blog since April, vicariously hiking the PCT. He has made it past the halfway point and is now in the Cascade Mountains in northern California. In late June, I made a batch of oatmeal cranberry cookies and put them in the mail so that I could be a trail angel, too. Oatmeal cranberry was the most popular of the cookies I sent to my husband’s coworkers in Afghanistan (“Open the box, John. We know what’s in the box.”). But getting cookies to a war zone was easy: I would put them in a special military shipping box on Monday and John would have them by Friday. This was different; I had to calculate how long a box would take getting to a remote town in California, correlate that with where Patrick said he was in his blog, and send it far enough ahead that he wouldn’t have passed by before the box arrived. Unfortunately, I miscalculated and sent them too far ahead, so the cookies were three weeks old when he caught up with them. Patrick didn’t complain though; he ate them all the same day.
Then I found the recipe in Maryland’s Way for Whiskey Nut Cookies, the one that said “these will keep indefinitely.” As the name implies, this simple shortbread cookie is made from ground pecans, with a healthy dose of whiskey (good Maryland Rye). I deviated from the recipe by refrigerating the dough overnight before rolling it out. The recipe calls for rolling the dough out “thin,” but since this is a shortbread cookie that doesn’t rise, I rolled it out to a little more than a quarter inch. The result was a rich, crumbly cookie with a distinct pecan flavor.
Now for the test. Will these cookies survive the trip to California and the wait at the post office? According to the author of the recipe, Augusta Tucker Townsend of Pendennis Mount, Severn River, these will keep indefinitely. The gauntlet has been thrown down…