“Just discovered that creating a recipe is like writing, the art is knowing when to stop adding and changing the ingredients.”
― Chris Geiger
Back when I was a sweet young lass, my father came to me with a plea. “Your mom tries, but she cannot bake decent chocolate chip cookies to save her soul. Any chance you would try?”
Two things you should know about my father…he had a huge sweet tooth, and his work took him away from the farm Monday through Friday. Therefore, he wanted to bring a large coffee can full of homemade cookies with him when he drove off on Sunday night. (Remember when repurposed coffee cans were as common as Tupperware?”)
I can still smell the whoosh of chocolate and vanilla aroma when the plastic lid opened, and see the layers of wax paper delicately cradling his “fix” for the week. Nothing says certain Lutheran Norwegian genes like strong coffee and sugary pastries. (That also applies to Lutheran Germans and Bohemians from my observations. Feel free to add to the list!)
Dad was right, though. Mom tried super hard to be the kitchen magician her mother was but, for some odd reason, the magic touch eluded her. Mom’s bread making attempts could have been used to build the Great Wall Of China, and her chocolate chip cookies came out of the oven looking like watery cat vomit sprinkled with a smattering of dark lumps.
Once Mom’s cookies cooled, they turned into thin hardened discs. You’d think that would make them great for dunking in hot coffee, but no. They just dissolved like cotton candy in a muddy hot tub.
Thus my father’s request. Nay, beseechment.
Like any good daughter expecting a weekly allowance, I said, “Sure.” I grabbed a bag of Nestle’s chips and read the recipe on the back.
The thing is, though, I’m not a good recipe follower. Reader, yes, follower, no. And so I started tweaking. More chips, less that. More this, and maybe a little surprise addition of that. Why not? Life is too short to follow all the guidelines.
The cookies turned out pretty dang good. I continued experimenting.
My dad loved every varied batch, which irritated the heck out of my mother. It made no sense to her that she precisely followed directions and got poor results, whereas my “meh-I’ll-do-what-I-want” baking turned out delicious.
Over time I continued to mess with the recipe. When I started working a summer job at a resort on Mille Lacs Lake, the owners had me make my cookies for their family and the rest of the help. It bolstered my confidence. Cookies were happiness equity.
I knew I was a chocolate chip cookie maker success when people started asking for the recipe. I knew I was really successful when those asking became crabby when I said it was a secret. (To this day the only other person who knows the recipe is my daughter. My son can have it too, but he says he’d rather just receive the cookies ready-made.)
As I crawled into my married, act sorta like an adult years, I made and gave away countless batches of my cookies. It was fun and a little addicting. The instant gratification of seeing the plate emptied and smiles born was a rush.
But then something happened. People began to have all sorts of allergies. Whereas in the past I never gave a thought to bringing my cookies to gatherings, all of a sudden I had to be careful.
“What’s in them?” was, and is, a frequent question.
“Are there nuts/sugar/eggs/dairy/gluten/or meat byproducts? ” (Okay, I made the last one up. Or did I?)
“Because I can’t even be in the same room/county/state/hemisphere as nuts/sugar/eggs/dairy/gluten/or meat byproducts.”
It somehow went from bringing a plateful of cookie heaven to doling out emergency room lottery tickets.
And that makes me sad.
I love to bake those cookies. I love to give the still warm, gooey, batches away. But now, well, I think about it.
I’m not being judgy, honest. I believe our soil isn’t what it used to be. I believe our food supply has changed and our bodies have yet to adapt.
It’s just that I miss the good old days when a plate of cookies meant sweet love as opposed to a batch of chocolate-laced fear.
I also miss my Dad’s look of bliss when the oven door opened and he knew his coffee can would be filled with cookies for the week.