The cookie: Lemon Lavender Sables (scroll down for the recipe)
The speakers: Casey and Mike, Federal Way’s finest semi-truck detailers, philosophers, and graffiti artists
Casey: When I was younger, my interest in martial arts got me into calligraphy, and that got me into graffiti. It’s that simplified style of writing a name in a single character that appeals to me. A throw-up, which is a graffiti artist’s signature, can be just like that: a character or group of symbols.
Mike: The cool thing about graffiti is that it doesn’t look like anything at all to most people. But if you have an eye for it you can notice a lot of interesting things. For example, there’s this technique called flaring. The nozzle on a spray paint can releases the paint in a cone shape, so if an artist holds the can really close to the wall it’ll make a dot, but if the artist flicks or tilts the can away, the dot gets larger. That varies the thickness of each character’s stroke, giving it the appearance of calligraphy.
Casey: It’s this whole art that thrives in festering areas. Like if you go down under freeway overpasses where bums live. It’s dark and dingy, and there are crackheads and all this other nasty shit, but I can stand there for eight hours during the day and paint if I want. Nobody cares.
Mike: It’s not that graffiti happens in ugly places, just forgotten ones.
Casey: Or think of it like the sunset. A sunset is made of these beautiful pinks and purples, but that’s all just fucking pollution. That’s gross but we think it’s beautiful. I feel the same about decrepit, diseased places. That’s what I want. I thrive on chaos. It’s beautiful because I’m human. Hell, I’ve been to jail multiple times, like jail-jail, for writing graffiti but I still fucking do it. The funny thing is that none of it’s going to get left behind.
Mike: Spray pain fades off a wall in only a few years, or it gets covered over.
Casey: Still, I risk it all. I climb up buildings and go out in the middle of the night. I climbed a crane once. People do all kinds of things. There’s this guy from New York who decided to go down into different subway tunnels and write a page of a progressive story in each of them. He’d write these 1,000-word murals and number them page 24 or whatever he was up to. He tried to put one in every train tunnel. That’s why graffiti is called writing. He was basically writing his life story right there on the walls. Eventually the cops figured out what he was up to and set up outside of every subway entrance and were like, “You’re never coming into a subway again.” All that shit’s gone now.
On some level, graffiti is an ego thing. I don’t care if anyone ever sees it except for me and a few select others who get it. I just want to take other people’s space and put a piece of me on it. I want to put it in other people’s faces.
Casey and Mike
Casey doesn’t only tag decrepit places. And if you want to check out more work by Seattle street artists, try The City Slums. But don’t expect them to paint you any t-shirts.
The Recipe: Whole Wheat Lemon Lavender Sables adapted from Alice Medrich’s amazing cookie cookbook whose name was too long to type
I love these cookies because, like all butter cookies, you can make them with stuff you have on hand and they’re endlessly versatile. I added lemon extract and lavender to these because both ingredients were sitting in my cupboards, unused, and needed some love. The flavors are delicate but this is intended—you have to use a light hand with lavender or else your cookies will taste more like that dusty bar of soap decorating the basket on your grandma’s toilet tank. Furthermore, make sure you use lavender meant for consumption. There are many plant varieties that are widely known as culinary lavender, but each is marked by a lesser amount of camphor that reduces bitterness.
1 cup all-purpose flours
1 cup whole wheat flour minus 1 tablespoon
14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt, plus a few extra pinches
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon lemon extract
½ tablespoon culinary lavender blossoms, crushed
½ tablespoon culinary lavender blossoms, intact
Combine the flours in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Crush half the lavender blossoms with a mortar and pestle to release more of their oils and lovely lavender flavor.
In a medium bowl beat the butter, sugar, salt, lavender, and extracts with a wooden spoon until creamy but not fluffy, about 1 minute. This is because you want your sables to be dense, not cakey, and better yet you don’t need a mixer! Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. For a while your dough may look like pastry dough: flour with a bunch of chunks of butter cut into it. Fear not! Keep mixing and it’ll come together.
When just incorporated, scrape the dough into a mass and knead it a couple of times so that it’s uniform. Form into a 12 x 2 inch log, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Incidentally, you could freeze the dough and have a ready-made source of cookies (and obesity) for unexpected visitors.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut ¼-inch thick slices of dough and place them on ungreased sheets at least an inch apart. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Cool on sheets for a couple of minutes before transferring them to racks to cool completely.
Did I forget to take a picture of the cookie? Yes. Did they get eaten so quickly that their deliciousness warrants no photographic evidence? Yes. Do I still feel bad that I forgot to take a picture? Yes. So here’s another picture:
I will debase myself for your pleasure.