“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”
-Vincent Van Gogh
Three years ago, I had just moved to Morocco and started blogging again in this little place I called Half Full Travel. 21 year old me wrote the following statement for my annual Valentine’s recipe and tribute:
“Here's the deal. I'm pretty young. And as much as some of these women here in Tangier would love to marry me off to a nice Moroccan man asap, I'm really in no rush to fall for any one person. The way I see it, you don't go searching for those kind of things. They usually catch you off guard.”
What kind of a bizarre prophecy was this?
I may have not been in any rush, but fate is a swift-moving and sneaky companion. Just a year later I found myself contemplating getting engaged and fretting over the classic conundrum of which comes first, the relationship or the artistic career. I determinedly decided that with the right person, the two loves can co-exist in harmony.
In fact, though I still may be “pretty young,” being in love, having a partner and figuring out what that means so far has without question added depth to my artistic work. It can strengthen our ability to see everything from different perspectives and often awakens interest in topics that we may not have otherwise explored. For me, namely, that includes theology, the Arabic language, Sufi poetry and Moroccan cooking among other things.
When we talk about where inspiration comes from, saying outright “it’s about love” has always felt like a giant taboo in the art world. However, when I create or experience any piece of art, I can almost instantly sense when something is missing. I am not saying that every work needs to be in-your-face-feelings, but there has to be a palpable emotional energy behind it. It should come from a place of humanity, and humanity is almost always entangled with that mysterious concept of love in some way or another. It’s a grand oversimplification to say “all art is about love,” but for me personally, the concept has to flicker somewhere in the background or crevices. If not, where does the drive to create come from?
Love drove me fatefully into my dance career, just as it lead me by the hand into marriage. However, it does not always have to present itself in large, dramatic ways. Sometimes a flicker in the background is all it takes to create something meaningful.
Like a really really good cookie, for example.
You know what love is?
It is all kindness, generosity.
Disharmony prevails when
you confuse lust with love, while
the distance between the two
These delicious morsels sprung from an instant lusting for dark chocolate and baked goods, but the result was pure love. Soft, chewy cookies studded with rich dark chocolate, pops of sweet local Moroccan dates and salty roasted almonds that I grabbed at the ba9al (corner shop) downstairs on a whim, all harmonize on the tongue and keep you reaching for just one more. Not only do I believe in making art with some love, but cookies should always have a helping mixed into the dough for good measure, as well.
Dark Chocolate, Date + Salted Almond Cookies
Adapted from Pinch of Yum's Best Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies, makes 12-16 cookies, depending on the size
- 8 tbsp (110g) butter
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar*
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (225g) all purpose flour (could sub whole wheat pastry flour)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup (150g) dark chocolate, chopped into chunks (or dark chocolate chips)
- 1/3 cup (50g) chopped roasted salted almonds*
- 8 dates, chopped
Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC). In a small pan or microwave, heat your butter until it is almost completely melted. You don’t want it to be scalding hot, so it’s okay if there are a couple unmelted pieces. In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a fork or electric mixer. Whisk in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir with your mixer to start, then once the ingredients are combined, use your hands to bring the dough together. It should be the perfect texture- not too wet and not too dry. Using your hands, fold in the chocolate, almonds and date pieces and roll the dough into small balls, about 1-1.5” wide, depending on how big you want your cookies. Space them out on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges start to brown- do not over bake or you won't get that lovely soft chewiness on the inside. Remove, cool as long as you can stand to wait, grab a cookie and enjoy,
*You can easily sub out 1/4 cup with brown sugar if you want. Brown sugar is hard to come by in Morocco so that's why I've just used granulated here.
*If you don't have salted almonds, you could definitely use unsalted roasted or even raw almonds (though the toasty flavor is delicious), but I would recommend a sprinkling of sea salt on top of each cookie before baking to add that salty-sweet contrast.
Happy Valentines Day, loved ones! xo