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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
NOV
12

When You Want Shortbread

When I went to Scotland a few years ago, I had this little shortbread shop on my list of places to go while in Edinburgh. It's certainly not what I would call a tourist destination, and in a city full of museums and castles (and Arthur's Seat, for crying out loud), it may seem strange that this was such a must-see. It would seem less strange if you knew how much I love shortbread--I just have to sort of ignore the fact that it's pretty much straight butter--but still, one might say an odd choice. I did those other things too, the museums and castles and even Arthur's Seat, but perhaps my favorite moment of the entire trip, at least the one I kept trying to re-create as I continued exploring the handful of Scottish cities I'd chosen to visit, was when I opened the door to Pinnies & Poppy Seeds Artisan Shortbread Shop and stepped inside. To this day, and for the rest of my life, I will never have smelled anything so delicious. 

I was late to the game when it comes to international travel, something I didn't start doing until later than most, but that I was able to do consistently in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. My goal was to keep the trend going and take one big, foreign trip every year, a plan that was of course foiled by this blasted pandemic. While I want to make clear that the most tragic aspect of COVID-19 is the lives that have been lost and the grief and suffering endured by those who have felt those losses most dearly, for those of us fortunate enough to only be dealing with the side effects of quarantine and lock-down, one of the saddest things I've witnessed is a general abandonment of our various shortbreads. We all have those things and places that speak to us, that compel us to try, to visit, to see, to achieve. It's not just that the pandemic can make a person feel like these things are no longer attainable, it's that they are in many cases actually no longer attainable. Worse, it can make a person feel foolish for even thinking such a pursuit was realistic in the first place. I have listened to the tears of friends and family who worry their windows have closed, and, in some cases, don't have it in them to try again. To the world I say, is there to be no more shortbread???

My own opinion on the matter is that shortbread is not over. It may be changed or different. It will certainly be delayed. But it is not gone. On good days, you can even convince me that my quest to visit the shortbread store would have been no less noble had I arrived to find the door locked, the store closed. On bad days, such a thought breaks my little angel cake heart, but let's focus on the good days. Let's remember that things will get better and that if we had the courage and gumption to pursue a thing once, surely we can summon the courage and gumption to pursue it again. Or even again after that. And for those whose windows truly have closed with this pandemic, do not for one second think yourself foolish for trying. Trying already sets you apart from those who assumed it impossible from the start. The effort is success already, see?

This is not to say that I'm immune to the pandemic blues, because they damn near paralyze me sometimes. I found myself looking up the Pinnies & Poppy Seeds website today just to cheer myself up, only to find that they have had to close their store. A reminder if ever there was one of all the dashed dreams, ruined fortunes, and overall melancholy that has seemingly enveloped the world. I'm glad I have the memory, is something I suppose I could tell myself. The memory not just of that initial inhale inside the door, but also of selecting the flavors I wanted to buy, of watching my selections be placed in a small box and tied with string, of schlepping the box around a beautiful new country, and of curling up in a different hotel room each night with a cup of steaming tea and a piece of shortbread. Yes, I'm glad I have the memories, but if you want to know a secret, without the shortbread store, I'm fairly certain the trip would have been just as amazing. I know that's hard to believe when all you want is shortbread, but in times like these, let's do our best to re-imagine what shortbread can be.