I’m sitting here at my desk, in a little puddle of late afternoon sunlight. Not really late, it’s only 2:30, but it’s a Sunday in November in Boston, and it feels like the sun is already dipping towards the horizon. Anyways, I’m supposed to be brainstorming for this final paper I have to write about Ireland’s financial crash 2008.
It was largely triggered by a housing bubble, much like the one here, but the property market was much more inflated than the American one. For the past two weeks I’ve been going through academic papers and novels and movies about risky lending, about a boom driven by ever increasing domestic demand, about the attitude that property values could only keep on going up. Cheerful reading.
And when it came crashing down, Ireland was left with these ghost estates, housing developments driven by the boom that were abandoned when the market collapsed. They’re standing empty in the countryside and towns and cities, sometimes still next to piles of construction waste, built and immaculate and completely empty.
They’re like ghost towns, but they’re untouched and have never been lived in. I’ve been looking at some of Valerie Anex’s work; she has a portfolio of photographs of these abandoned estates. Some of the houses look quite normal. They’re not run down, completely finished, well-painted and look quite new. Yet there’s a certain wrong-ness about them that you immediately pick up on in the photos: they’re too perfect, too symmetrical, too empty. The lawns are green and flawless, but yield no sign of life, the clean white windows are completely dark and empty. No cars, no people, none of the clutter of everyday life. You know immediately that something looks off, but in some of them, it takes a moment for the horrible emptiness to hit you.
They’re deeply creepy and beautiful, and remind me why I love photography. That one shot, the lighting, the framing, it captures a tiny moment in time that no video and no words could.
Which sort of brings me to my own pictures of these gingersnaps. I sat down to write this post instead of my paper, but somehow started writing about Ireland anyways...I’ve been doing a lot of writing about Ireland this semester.
Nothing like those beautiful portraits by professional photographers, but they’re here. Capturing (I do like that word, capturing, I think it describes the thing perfectly). Capturing a moment in time, a cold Sunday afternoon and a plate of warm and chewy gingersnap cookies. The slightly crisp edges, the chewy center, the spicy bite that awakens your senses, sitting on a foil-wrapped tray on my windowsill in the dying light.
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup butter, room temperature
⅓ cup granulated sugar
½ brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
⅓ cup molasses
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Set aside.
Beat together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in the egg and the molasses. Mix in the dry ingredients.
Transfer the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap well and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. Do not skip this step. The dough is very soft, and will spread too much in the oven if it isn’t cold.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease 2-3 cookie sheets.
Roll the dough into 1-inch spheres. Place onto the cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges begin to turn brown. Let cool, then eat!