Friday, December 18, 2009

School and Cookie Chat.

Firstly, school news. Several years ago, during a Google adventure called Trying To Figure Out My Life, I came across a graduate program at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy (UNISG, a.k.a. the "Slow Food University"). I kid you not, after reading about their masters programs I actually shouted “I have found my people!” Confetti fell, fireworks exploded, and a symphony began to play. I'd found the program which, until that moment, had existed only as an unarticulated, theoretical hope in the dark recesses of my brain.

My obsession with all things food tended to make me feel odd, especially because I have always known I don't want to be a chef but never really knew what else was out there. So, as I read about UNISG, I felt like a fish living in a puddle who had just been told about the Great Lakes. I was determined to get in and simultaneously doubtful I even had a chance. With more research I found three similar programs, however they were so far out of my budget (we're talking $50 000 tuition, per year) that it all came back to UNISG. The programs do not start annually, so with the next application date in late 2009 I spent a year and a half working, saving and yes, even herding eighty goats around the hillsides of Tuscany. I sent off my completed student dossier on December 3rd and spent the next thirteen days successfully convincing myself that I had absolutely no chance of getting in. Apparently those fitful sleeps were in vain, however, because I did get accepted and will be starting the Master in Food Culture and Communications program this spring in Parma, Italy. I am relieved, excited, and happy to have so much to look forward to. Not to mention grateful for having been supported by so many people throughout the whole process. Thank you, grazie, and I will keep you updated.

*Click here to visit the UNISG website.

Not to be overshadowed by school talk, however, is Christmas Baking, because what does a higher education matter if you can't make quality gingerbread? Exactly.

I've never been the blogging type that documents every step of my recipe mis-adventures, as I think you've all seen what a bowl of sugar, butter and eggs looks like. I do, however, love to talk about it, and when I'm completely satisfied with a finished product the camera comes out. I was once so proud of a peach pie that I spent an hour taking pictures of it on the lawn. I'm sure more than one ant found it's way inside and died a very happy death. But I digress – back to this, the best time of year for baking. So far I've made triple ginger biscotti, soft ginger cookies (yes I love ginger), almond roca bars with Stephanie, chocolate caramel shortbread squares, and sugar cookies. There's more on the way, but darn you Save-On-Foods and your lack of vanilla wafer crumbs. To tide us over til the crumbs come in, our freezer has been stocked with plenty more goodies thanks to the best neighbourly arrangement ev-er. My newly retired father, with his newly purchased snowblower, has been clearing the driveway of Mrs. Wallace, a sweet elderly widower who lives across the street. Every time it snows, my father hauls out the snowblower or shovel, and to say thank you she bakes him treats. Every time. Gloriously, it snows a lot, and we've been consuming cookies, cakes, muffins and squares by the large tupperware-load. Isn't that utterly wholesome? Thank you Mrs. Wallace, thank you Dad, and thank you snow.

What would a Christmas baking chat be without a recipe? Here's my favourite one for ginger cookies, which I found on (fear not! it's a gem!)

Big Soft Ginger Cookies


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup margarine, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar (for rolling cookies in
  • *chopped candied ginger (my favourite add-in, you can add it at any stage but it's easiest just to add it into the dry ingredients)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Bake just until the cookies have 'cracked.' Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.


  1. I am SO SO SO excited for you and I am so going to come visit if you're in Italy for a few years (if you like!). I'm dying to collaborate on some sort of fabulous food, photography, and travel project together so let me know if you have any ideas brewing over the next while!