Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Cookie Monster

On Friday night around eight o’clock I decided to make cookies. As a rule, I keep a cupboard that is well-stocked with cookie-making supplies, but the particular cookies I wanted were a vegan recipe that my mother, cursed with several food sensitivities, had adapted. They have a few unusual ingredients that I do not keep around, so I loaded up my reusable shopping bag, fired up Pandora radio on my phone, and headed to my local co-op. I get distracted easily in grocery stores (so many beautiful vegetables! And artisan breads! And organic juices!) so the expedition took a little longer than I had planned. I got home around 9:30 and began mixing up a batch of cookies while watching an episode of Law & Order on my computer. Since my computer was occupied, I read the recipe on my phone. The recipe calls for a cup of chopped nuts, and since I do not have a nifty chopper like my mother, I had to do it all by hand. I also realized partway through the process that I did not have any baking powder, so I ran to the corner store and bought some. I chopped, mixed, plopped the dough on a cookie sheet, and put them in the oven, while meanwhile the bad guy was caught and prosecuted. I felt like it was a job well done for a Friday night.

A few minutes into the baking process I got impatient and opened the oven door, only to realize with dismay that the entire batch had melted into a gooey, nutty mass across the bottom of the cookie sheet. I looked over the recipe on my phone and remembered that the recipe called for shortening, but I had used butter instead. This did not seem like a problem, but as I saw no other explanation I assumed it must be. Once again I ran to the corner store, bought a tin of shortening, then returned home to chop, mix, plop the dough on the cookie sheet, and put them in the oven, while meanwhile the police saved the little girl in the nick of time. By now it was after 11:00 and I really wanted those cookies.

I opened the oven again, only to be confronted by the same gelatinous puddle. This time, I consulted the recipe on my computer. The display on my phone had cut off the very first line: 1 cup white flour.

You ask, didn’t it occur to you that there should be some flour? Well, I had included the half cup of whole wheat flour and oats on the recipe, and while I thought it didn’t seem like much the batch only makes nine cookies. Besides, I had also been distracted by victimized children and debates about the justice system.

Tired, upset, and really craving a cookie, I skyped my fiancé in Afghanistan.

“Don’t let those cookies beat you, sweetie,” he said. “You show them who’s boss.”

And so, at 11:45, I headed back to the kitchen. This time I used my coffee grinder for the nuts (not recommended, it reduced the peanuts to powder) and included the cup of flour. I checked the oven nervously after two minutes, but everything seemed to be running smoothly. Feeling a bit smug, I reported my victory via Skype.

The buzzer rang and I opened the oven door, anticipating my warm, fresh cookies. As I removed them from the sheet, I had a cruel shock.

I had forgotten the chocolate chips.

At this point, I should probably come up with some kind of comforting moral-to-the-story. A friend even suggested that I change the ending so that the last batch came out perfect. Perfection was what I wanted, after all—it’s what I always want. I want to move through life without saying the wrong thing or forgetting to do an assignment or losing track of an appointment or making a mistake…ever. I want to be perfect. I believe that if I am, everything will be okay and I will be happy. The problem is, this drive for perfection is accompanied by overwhelming anxiety, crushing self-hatred, and dangerous self-destructive behaviors. Besides, even a five year-old knows perfection is impossible.

I ate the cookies that night, and although they didn’t have the chocolate chips they were delicious. I went to bed exhausted but satisfied, and even if everything wasn’t perfect it was okay. Last night I made another batch of the cookies, making sure to include the chocolate chips. On Law & Order, a kidnapped nun was rescued after the friendly neighborhood psychic was exposed as the culprit. Justice was served, and I enjoyed a fresh, hot cookie out of the oven. As I lay in bed that night, thinking about the day with satisfaction, I went over the recipe for the cookies in my head.

And I realized I had forgotten the vanilla.

Mom’s Cookies

Stir dry ingredients in a bowl:
• 1 C white flour
• 1⁄4 C whole wheat flour
• 1 C chopped mixed nuts (I use 1/3 almonds, 1/3 peanuts, 1/3 pecans but you can
use any mix you prefer. Walnuts are good too. Be sure to get UNsalted)
• 1⁄4 C sunflower seeds (raw and unsalted)
• 1⁄4 C old fashioned oats
• 1/3 C chocolate chips
• 1⁄2 t baking soda
• 1 t baking powder

Whip wet ingredients together in a large bowl:
• 1⁄2 C shortening (like Crisco)
• 1⁄4 C molasses  (always do shortening first then put the molasses & syrup in the
same measure cup)
• 1⁄4 C maple syrup (not imitation, the real stuff. It will be expensive.)
• 1 t vanilla

Dump the dry ingredients in the wet ingredient bowl and stir until everything is
moistened. I use a big spoon to stir and use the same spoon to put the cookies on the pan.
I make 8 big cookies out of this recipe. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.


  1. Sissy-

    I just died laughing because you WOULD be too occupied with some silly crime show, and Walter WOULD tell you to show them who's boss. Glad you have the taste buds of our mother (which means you have none)! Pass the salt please?

  2. I resent that remark. I have excellent taste and I love lots of flavor. What did you have for dinner tonight, huh? Because I had a curried chicken and sweet potato casserole. Hmph.

  3. As the Mom in Mom's Cookies, I laughed REALLY hard. Of course, I think they are delicious cookies!

  4. No Charles ever forgets the chocolate chips. The lack of chips in the actual cookie is the perfect occasion to do what we do anyway--put a handful of chips in your mouth (just a pinch between the cheek and gum) and insert cookie. Chew. Chocolate chips now included in recipe. Questions?

  5. Great piece Beth-e! Perfection. Hmmmm. When I strive for it, I try to remember Grandpa (Don). He called all of us the evening of the day he had accidentally "dropped his drawers" at a funeral of a friend. He could always laugh at himself and not take things so seriously. One of his better traits. love, auntie ka

  6. It's the flaws, the valleys and erosion that make a landscape interesting. A few imperfections makes a person interesting. :-) Besides there is perfection in all this imperfection! And as one of your Uncle Don's friends said, "It is what it is, DC." Love it all........

  7. I would go further ... or farther ... (english major please) and suggest that perfection is boring and pisses people off. Doubt me? Do this test: think of someone who is perfect to you. Now, how does this person make you feel? No, I mean really. I say this, by the way, as a perfectionist.

  8. Last night I made my usual peanut butter chocolate chip cookie batch. During dinner, I put the peanut butter out on the kitchen island so I would be all prepared. So of course I forgot the peanut butter in the recipe. There is now a dollop of peanut butter on top of each of my baked cookies. Looks pretty perfect to me.