Pine Nut and Anise Cookies

To celebrate my seven-year blogging anniversary I am revisiting some of my early posts, and reflecting on how the world has changed in that time. This post (below) was written for my first ever blog, EllenCooksMillennium, on the 29th of August 2011. My plan was to cook everything in the two cookbooks from the Millennium restaurant in San Francisco: the first (and possibly still the most fabulous) 100% vegan restaurant I went to…

So, biscuits. I have to be honest here. I love them. No surprise that these were the second thing I chose to make from the book (after the filo pastry parcels on the front cover).

But oh dear they are so very bad for you (filo pastry too, sadly). Which in a roundabout way brings me to the subject of grief.

My dad died last year and he was renowned for his love of digestive biscuits dunked in very strong tea. He lived on a boat and sitting in the wheelhouse drinking tea and eating digestives is one of those childhood memories that will stay with me forever. I said something about this at his funeral and then someone turned up at the wake with a big packet of McVities (which are not vegan btw, but some other brands are).

In a strange sort of way when I sit down with a cup of tea and a packet of digestives I am still with him and he is with me. I know I have been eating too many digestives because I am grieving, and now I am getting all tearful sitting here writing this.

I know I have to let go of the biscuits. But it’s so very hard to do. I ate a lot of biscuits growing up, but I never baked any myself. So this is going to sound crazy, but it was only after I had children – and internalised all the subliminal messages that are everywhere in our society that state that to be a good mother you have to bake – that I learnt what biscuits were made of. I think that up until then, in my head, biscuits were a food category like apples or carrots. I knew they didn’t grow on trees, but you know, if you wanted a snack you might have an apple or a biscuit. A biscuit was a whole complete thing in and of itself: it certainly wasn’t white flour and refined sugar and palm  oil.

I don’t know if I am being very clear about this, but I think this way of thinking about food is very common nowadays, and it suits the food industry that we see its products as whole things rather than a collection of ingredients. Parents often tell me what their child eats for lunch and they will say a banana and a packet of crisps in the same sentence as if these two things are totally equivalent.

But nature only gives us whole foods as single ingredient packages. Nature gives us an apple, or a carrot, or a banana – or wheat berries, or sugar cane – and for the most part, from a health perspective, this is how we should eat them.

So if we want to improve our health, for most of us adults it means giving up foods we love and are attached to in all kinds of complicated psychological ways. We might have to grieve for their loss, and find other ways to honour the memories they are tied to.

For our children, one of the best things we can give them is attachments to healthy foods in the first place. Don’t give them digestives as an expression of love and they won’t grow up to associate digestives with parental love.

Give them apples: lots and lots of them. Easier said than done, I know, but all change begins with setting our intentions…



Pine Nut and Anise Cookies, 29th August 2011

“This is the rustic, hand-pressed look. Next time I might try using a rolling pin and cookie cutters, just for fun.

I used star anise ground in a mortar and pestle instead of the recommended aniseed and anise extract. I should have sprinkled a few around for the photograph.

Anyway it’s too late now ‘cos they’re all gone. They passed the dunking test which is the most important thing!”


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