Friday, July 23, 2010

Freshly Baked Cookies

There is nothing in the world like a chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven.

As I'm sure many middle-class kids do, I have many a beloved childhood memory of baking chocolate chip cookies with my mom. In my case, it also involves my big sisters, some kids my mom babysat, and a set of matching aprons with the biggest one reading "I bring home the dough" and the smallest one reading "I EAT the cookies!" Those memories also involve the fact that my mom's chocolate chip cookies were the absolute best in the world.

Then came eighth grade, when I baked some chocolate chip cookies for my uncle. Weeks later, my mom went to my aunt and uncle's house and was surprised to find the cookies not only still in existence--they never last more than a few days in our house--but still perfectly delicious when dunked in a little coffee. She decided I had surpassed her cookie-baking skill, and who was I to argue? From then on, when cookies needed to be baked, it fell to me to bake them.

Fast-forward to the end of this past semester of college, when I started baking cookies to bring home every time I came home from school. I bought a lovely cookie jar just for the cause, and my cookies became an expected, much-appreciated treat, and of course I gave a repeat performance in honor of my big sister coming in from California and my future-brother-in-law coming in from Pennsylvania. (They came in at the same time. This was only one round of cookie-baking.)

Well, last week, Daddy had a little accident on the motorcycle (and by "a little accident," I mean "half a second away from catastrophic," but that's for another post) and fractured his left shoulder blade. Now he can't work, he's in a lot of pain, and he's crawling the walls with boredom. The obvious solution? Bake cookies, of course.

The magic started just as I was adding the flour. Mom came downstairs, gasped, and grinned to see what I was doing. Then, of course, she picked out a little finger-full of dough to eat.

Moments later, the chocolate chips were in, and suddenly the beater and spatula were no longer needed. "Dad, which one do you wanna lick?" He chose neither, thinking I would still need the spatula, and he grabbed a spoon. Mom picked out some more dough with the knife I'd used to level off flour and sugar. I got to lick the beater. And Dad grabbed another spoon. "Don't even bother cooking it. We'll just eat it like it is," Mom teased.

But mere moments after I took the first batch out of the oven, Dad was off the couch.

"Oh, you've got some done already?"

"Yup. Fresh out of the oven."

"That's when they're best. When they're nice and mushy..." He picked up a cookie and took a nice, chocolatey bite. "Mmm... MMM..." I didn't have to see his face to know how much he was enjoying that cookie.

So once I had the next batch in the oven, I took one of the fresh cookies upstairs to where Mom was doing some ironing. "I brought you a present," I said. The look on her face alone was priceless, but I watched her eat the cookie, every "Mmm..." almost exactly the same as Dad's. (They've been married almost 33 years, so yeah, they've grown a little similar.)

A few minutes later, I finally had a fresh-out-of-the-oven cookie. And you know what? As wonderful as that cookie was, I enjoyed seeing my parents enjoy their cookies more than I enjoyed my own cookie. And just now, when my brother-in-law walked in the door and I greeted him with the announcement that there were fresh cookies, he absolutely lit up, which made me light up.

My Children's Literature professor pointed out several examples in children's books where food = love. I know that will all the eating disorders and obesity problems in the country, that's a dangerous equation. But the difference these cookies made today? If writing doesn't work out, I might consider opening a bakery. When simple sweets light up a person's face... Well, there's something to be said for giving someone a bite of happiness, isn't there?

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