The changes in my life are unapologetically wary. It subtly started when learning about my favorite hair products being discontinued. Next, I noticed my hair is abnormally super dry. Before continuing this story, let’s pause for a disclaimer: Talking about hair care isn’t a sound reason for reading this food blog. But, I can assure you, my hair isn’t the main topic of this story. But, please follow where this story leads. Because, writing this story is a therapeutic effort dedicated to me, but the featured Date, Walnut, Sesame Seed Scone recipe is for you.
Let’s continue: The changes started with hair products. A few weeks ago, our landlord announced the rent is increasing to about 85 percent by the end of the year. Of course, we have to move. The average rent in my rapidly gentrifying Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn neighborhood is $2,500 per month. But, the average income in the Bed-Stuy area is estimated at $32,000 a year.1 And, as we’re looking for new apartments within our budget, the affordable rates are in neighborhoods that don’t traditionally rent to African-Americans. The morning after hearing the news about our rent increase, I woke up with a somber feeling that my community only sees “green,” for my neighborhood of mostly African-American landlords don’t care about preserving its cultural identity. These are neighborhoods that didn’t integrate during mid-20th-century desegregation laws because Whites didn’t (and some still don’t) want to live next to African-Americans. Clearly, developers and politicians are succeeding at displacing, instead of integrating, communities of color with help from African-American homeowners.
Meanwhile, my job hired new management that directly impacts my work experience. Jacinto, my boyfriend, is finally following his dream of directing a film based on his screenplay (which is a good direction for him, because he should’ve been following his filmmaking dreams years ago). And, amid the daily chaos, the first and last thoughts of each day is: “…I’m going to be okay. Let’s hope I’m going to be okay. Will I be okay?”
The stress is real. And, instead of cooking these days, we’re searching for new apartments. I’m on ‘my toes’ at work. I’m surprised there was time to test these Date, Walnut, and Sesame Seed Scones several times before publishing this recipe. Dates are my favorite midnight snack when I can’t go to sleep because of the stress. But, when I make scones, it’s full of happy flavors. They’re slightly healthier with a little amount of wheat flour and ground flax seeds. If ground flax seeds are difficult to find, increase the wheat flour to one cup. Chopped dates add a tiny taste of a molasses flavor, and the scones have a nutty taste because of the walnuts and sesame seeds. The finishing touch is the coconut sugar glaze topped with a sprinkling of sea salt. And, each bite has a slight kick of ground cardamom.
A kick of bravery is what I need in life, and that is what change means to most of us. Sometimes, after waking up from a sleepless night of worrisome thoughts, Chloe x Halle’s song, “Warrior,” faintly plays in my head. Other times, Destiny’s Child, “I’m a Survivor,” pops up in my head in times of stress. Clearly, the universe is sending a message of encouragement via my favorite tunes.
Remember when I mentioned being forced to look for new hair products? Here’s the positive part of the experience: When I first started locking my hair years ago, my only choice of hairstyle products was aloe gel. In addition, hair products sans chemicals were exclusively sold in health or specialty stores, and the products were mostly created for straight hair. Today, as I experiment with different products, it occurred to me, most stores have a vast, intimidating display of various hair care product lines catering to diverse hair textures. I can’t make a final decision, because there are too many options. And, having too many options is a great step towards progress.
These events are inspiring me to evaluate, experiment, and make a few decisions about progressing to the next stage in my life. While manifesting our next dream apartment, I’m hoping for a sunny, modern kitchen with better light for taking food photos. My new management at work is inspiring me to work smarter, and previous work experiences serve as a guide to reframing problems that lead to effective solutions. Jacinto completed the filming of his screenplay. The next step is raising funds to edit the film. Because I’m working during the day, he’s aggressively looking for our next apartment, in between his auditions and personal fitness training appointments with clients.
Meanwhile, I found a new hair care line with more moisture than the previous products. The other day, I changed my final, worrisome evening thoughts into breathing exercises learned from yoga classes, and I started a prayer of gratitude focusing on positive events and people in my life.
Who knows how the next few months will look from now. But, the options are plentiful (my opinion of apartments is on pause for the moment2). Repeat after me: “We’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.” Pray for us, please.
1 Source: “These are the Least Affordable Neighborhoods in New York City,” Bed-Stuy Patch: https://patch.com/new-york/bed-stuy/s/ggt3j/these-are-the-least-affordable-neighborhoods-in-nyc, July 11, 2018
2 The other day we reviewed an apartment requesting slightly more money than our current rent, but the place was smaller, needed major renovations and new appliances. And, there was a real estate broker, in which we would have to pay a fee equal to one month’s rent, in addition to security and first-month rent to the landlord. Here’s an idea for local politicians: Either abolish the rental brokers’ fee or regulate into an affordable percentage of the rent. It’s cruel to anyone, regardless of income, especially in a housing market, in which most people are having difficulty finding housing, even households making working/middle-class incomes.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup whole wheat flour
- ¼ ground flax seed
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar
- ¼ pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into .5” sized pieces
- 1-1/4 cup cream, more or less as needed
- 2 large eggs, (lightly mix 1 whole egg and separate the second egg, set aside the egg white in another bowl, use second egg yolk for another recipe)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup (about 10 to 12) roughly chopped dates, pits removed and discarded
- ¼ cup sesame seeds, plus about 1 tablespoon more for finishing
- ½ cup roughly chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup powdered white sugar
- ¼ cup cream
- ¼ tsp. of sea salt, plus a tad more for finishing
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Equipment: Food Processor
- Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Set sheet pan aside, outside of the oven.
- Place both flours, ground flax seeds, baking powder, cardamon, salt and ¼-cup of coconut sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Lightly process for about ten seconds.
- Place butter pieces in the food processor. Pause for about ten times. The butter should be about slightly less than a quarter size pieces.
- Whisk the cream, 1 whole egg and vanilla in a separate bowl. Pour the cream and egg mixture into the bowl of a food processor with the flour and butter.
- Process with the pause feature about ten times. The dough should be rough and shaggy and barely holding together.*
- Light toss chopped dates, ¼-cup of sesame seeds, and walnuts in a small bowl.
- Dump the dough onto a clean and floured surface. Make a well (similar to a doughnut) shape with the shaggy dough. Add the date, sesame seed, and walnut mix to the center of the dough. Knead the dough together for less than ten seconds or until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated. Be careful not to over knead the dough.
- Using a rolling pin, smooth the dough to slightly less than two-inches thick. Using a biscuit-cutter, cut dough and place onto the parchment paper lined, sheet pan.
- Whisk the egg white from one egg and one tablespoon of water. Brush the egg-white wash over each scone.
- Sprinkle coconut sugar over the scones.
- Place scones in the preheated oven to bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown on top. Remove the scones from the oven to completely cool for about one to two hours.
- Meanwhile, place whisk all ingredients for the coconut sugar glaze in a medium-sized bowl until fully incorporated.
- When the scones are completely cool, drizzle the coconut sugar glaze over the scones.
- Finish with a tiny dash of sea salt over the glazed scones.
- Serve and enjoy.
* If the dough is too dry, add more cream by the tablespoon. Be careful not to add too much cream or process too much. Sometimes, it’s better to move onto the next step in the directions. Make a well with the dough, add a tablespoon of cream in the center, and knead the dough together. Keeping the dough in the food processor, will make the scones an unpleasant tough texture.