It is estimated that around one-third of the star systems in the universe are binary systems — ones that have two orbiting stars at their center. Unlike our system, which revolves around the mass of a single star, these systems revolve around the immense gravity that binds two.
My existence, my reality, is similar. For a very brief time, my best friend in the universe, my twin sister and I, were a single being. That one being suddenly fractured, and the two of us began our journey through time as sister stars.
This past weekend we celebrated 35 rotations of our orbit. Over the years, as we have twirled together with the cruel blackness of the universe at our backs, our faces have always been bathed in the shining warmth of the other. The flickering universe has at times blessed us with light, and at times has subjected us to the barrage of storms, but through it all the bond between us has kept us stable and has saved us from the misery of drifting alone through the frigid darkness.
In the first year of our independence, we worked together at the Orange Julius stand. Our favorite snack there, the one I know will always make her smile, was a soft pretzel with cheese sauce. My recipe is so easy and so quick you could whip them up as an afternoon snack.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar (or honey)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup baking soda (for the water bath)
Coarse salt for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with either greased parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Combine your yeast, warm water, and sugar (or honey) in a large mixing bowl and let sit 5 minutes for the yeast to activate.
Combine flour and salt.
Add your flour mixture to your water mixture in thirds, working the dough until totally combined in between each addition. When the dough pulls away from the bowl and doesn’t stick to your fingers it’s ready to knead. You may need a little more or a little less flour, so don’t add it all at once.
Knead the dough on a floured surface for five minutes, then cover with a damp towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes while you prepare your water bath.
Dissolve your baking soda in at least 8 cups of water and set to boil in a wide pan. It doesn’t need to be a deep pan, but at least deep enough to float the pretzels.
Form your pretzels however you like. You could make traditional folded arm pretzels, or knots, or even simple balls. I chose twisted rings to represent our infinitely intertwined lives.
Carefully transfer your formed pretzels into the boiling water bath and allow to cook for 2 minutes on each side.
Remove from the water bath and dip both sides into the beaten egg before setting onto your baking sheet.
Sprinkle on your coarse salt. You could also do cinnamon sugar or Parmesan cheese. No matter how you want to dress them, now is the time.
Bake for 10 minutes then turn on the broiler for a couple minutes to crisp the tops. Watch them carefully under the broiler so they don’t burn — it happens fast so don’t walk away. Serve them warm with plenty of cheese sauce (or mustard, my favorite).
Together we have experienced all the joy and tragedy of life, we have served and learned and traveled together, and when one has stumbled or has been thrown into chaos, the gravity of our bond has prevented us from being hurled off into oblivion.
We were born with a life partner, a true constant in a fickle universe, and I am forever grateful to our mother for giving us this greatest of gifts.
Happy birthday, Sarah! May our dance through space and time last for many, many more rotations.
Tressa Dale is a U.S. Navy veteran and culinary and pastry school graduate from Anchorage. She currently lives in Nikiski with her husband, 1-year-old son and two black cats.