Cookies are wonderful. The word “cookie” means “little cake. Who wouldn’t be delighted by little cakes that come in so many delicious forms? Chocolate chip, sugar and spice, snicker doodles, raisin oatmeal. Yum.
But the dark side of cookies is that it takes too much time to make them. Each individual cookie is handled in some way – with a rolling pin and cookie cutters, or dropping teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet, or rolling lumps into balls between the palms of your hands, and rolling the balls in sugar. You can only bake a dozen at a time, and then you have to wait for the pan to cool before putting more cookies on it to go into the oven. It’s endless. The person who invented bar cookies should be enshrined in the Baking Hall of Fame – mix up the dough, press it into a pan, stick it in the oven. You’re done! And bars are just as delicious as the cookies you gave up your whole morning for.
My problem is that I didn’t have a normal cookie-baking childhood. It was never “Oh, let’s make a batch of cookies.” At our house, peopled by six children (four of them boys who had bottomless pits for stomachs and required mountains of cookies to survive), cookie-baking was a career. I remember the morning of a wondrous snow day, which I planned to spend lolling with a book. But I watched in horror as my mother pulled out five cookie recipes, announced her plan to quadruple each recipe, and pressed me into service. It came out to something like sixty dozen cookies. I’m not exaggerating. I understood the logic. There was no point in making one lonely batch of cookies, which would disappear in seconds. So we went into industrial mode, filling up loads of empty ice cream pails, which were stored in one of the basement freezers, and regularly pillaged by my brothers. Looking back, we should have wrapped the cookies in butcher paper and labeled them “Liver.”
As the result of my exposure to excessive cookie-baking, my own children grew up cookie-deprived. Any thoughts I had of baking cookies were squelched by the image of ten hours in the kitchen, held hostage by a bowl of cookie dough. For some reason it didn’t occur to me until years later that it was entirely possible to bake a single batch of cookies. Duh. Sorry kids.
Some traditions live forever, though, so once a year I gritted my teeth and baked cutout Christmas cookies with my kids, just like my mom used to do. My kids and I rolled, cut, baked, frosted and decorated for hours. Here’s the challenge with cutout cookies – transferring them from the counter to the pan without them losing their shape. Stars lose their points, Christmas trees lean to one side, and the bells are unrecognizable blobs. The camels were the worst. The raw camels had very stretchy necks, and somehow turned into hump-backed giraffes during transfer. I hated that cutter, but the kids adored camels. One happy day the camel cookie cutter broke – honest, it did – and I removed it from our collection.
Fast forward to the present. I wasn’t going to be the stereotypical cookie-baking grandma. I would bake brownies with my grandchildren instead, or teach them to make bread. No cookies. Who needs the hassle? But a beguiling grandson one day declared his deep desire to make chocolate chip cookies. With Grandma. Right now. I confess to immediate capitulation, and in the last year more cookies have come out of my kitchen than in the entire preceding thirty years.
Nothing can explain this transformation except that I’m a spineless woman who will do almost anything for her grandchildren. I’ve perfected the chocolate chip recipe, with plans for expansion into my mostly unused recipes from childhood.
If I’ve learned anything as a woman my age, it’s that I should always be open to change. So don’t be surprised if you drop in some day and I offer you a cookie. It just won’t be a camel.