In high school I joined the swim team. After years of weekly lessons, it only seemed natural to keep up the tradition when my family moved from England to France and I signed up enthusiastically, though my excitement quickly dwindled.
Three days a week I synchronized my alarm clock with the local baker’s. On those cold mornings, I’d grumpily roll out of my warm bed, slather on acne cream between yawns and hoist jeans over my athletic one-piece swimming suit.
I usually felt better when I opened the glass doors to the centre de loisirs and the familiar scent of chlorine hit my nostrils. After shedding my civilian clothes I was filled with mild apprehension. As all swimmers know, the worst part of practice is that first dive into cold, still water.
We swam endless laps of breast stroke (my second least-favorite stroke—anything’s better than my floundering interpretation of the butterfly), our fingers cutting through the cool water while we kicked out our legs to match the diamonds our arms carved.
Gently bobbing in and out of the water soothed my mind as I peered through foggy goggles. The gap between the crown of my head and the stronger, fleshy pink legs in front of me lengthened and I began to relax into my usual place at the very end of the queue. Instructions punctuated the underwater silence, flooding my ears as soon as they broke the surface. I accidentally exasperated the coaches, who couldn’t reconcile my body’s inefficient combination of promising form and feeble muscles.
Most of all I dreaded swim meets. I inevitably placed last in all solo events and resigned myself to slowing down three teammates during relays. Luckily, my mother could sense the desperate disappointment seeping into the seams of my rubbery swim cap. More than once she walked down from the bleachers to hand me a tupperware box full of sweet redemption, otherwise known as oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, to share with the team.
After freshman year I joined art club.
Though my love for chocolate chip cookies will never waver, these date and cardamom cookies are more suitable as a restorative snack after working out. A combination of spelt and tigernut flour gives these cookies a nutty quality which, paired with the warmth of cardamom pods, makes them the perfect treat after early morning exercise.
Cardamom and Date Cookies:
Inspired by a Tartine recipe.
Makes about two dozen cookies.
200g toasted and chopped cashews
100g tigernut flour
100g spelt flour
100g cane sugar
2 ground cardamom pods
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
140g chilled butter
flax seed egg (or regular egg)
100g chopped dates
- Preheat oven to 180°C, spread the cashews on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and toast in the oven until golden (10-15 minutes). Turn oven off after this step.
Allow the cashews to cool and transfer to a food processor along with the flours, sugar, spices and salt.
- Pour the mixture from the food processor into a large bowl.
Cut the chilled butter into cubes and incorporate into the dough using the pads of your fingers.
Add flax (or regular) egg and knead gently till the dough begins to hold together.
Roughly chop the dates and fold into the mixture.
Roll the dough into a log, cover in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the freezer for an hour. This will help you cut even slices of dough as the dough is quite dry and crumbles easily at room temperature.
After 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 180°C once more and prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
When the dough has rested for an hour, remove the plastic wrap and cut into 5cm slices.
Place the slices on the parchment paper and bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown.