I make cookies. It’s one of my things. I make iced oatmeal cookies better than your Mother’s, snickerdoodles soft as heaven and chewy chocolate chip cookies with browned butter that make almost all most other chocolate chip cookies taste like a faint idea of what a chocolate chip cookie should taste like.
That may sound like bragging, so I will share the reason I excel at making cookies: I find good recipes and follow them. Anyone can do this. Here, make the cookies yourself.
The key words are “good” and “follow.” If the recipe is only mediocre, obviously your friends will not be amazed and grateful and salivate like Pavlov’s dogs every time you walk in their office because they’ve become trained to associate you with sweetness. And a good recipe can always be ruined. Baking, in particular, demands respect to the measurements and tolerates few substitutes.
Which I was reminded of yesterday when, in the midst of mixing cookie dough – the aforementioned Astoundingly Good Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – to make cookies to take to our friends’ house for a taco night potluck, I realized I was almost out of white flour. Well, hell. And no time to run to the store. I don’t bake nearly as much as I did when the children were small and every day was pancakes, waffles, cookies and crepes, so I don’t pay as much attention to what supplies are on hand.
What I had was an unopened bag of coconut flour I’d picked up cheap at Grocery Outlet – you know how it is when you see normally expensive items there. You grab them, sure they’ll come in handy some day. So I said to myself, “What the heck!” and dumped two cups’ worth into the bowl.
This result felt gritty instead of the usual smoothness, and a bit dry, but I forged ahead, squishing blobs together with my hands and shoving the pan in the oven. When I took them out, this:
Do those look like Astoundingly Good Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies? No, no, they do not. Did they taste good enough to take over anyway? Should I abandon the cause, race to the nearest liquor store for a bottle of tequila instead? They were… okay. Which was sort of worse than being inedible because it meant I would show up with mediocre cookies instead of my usual amazing ones.
They swore that the cookies were good and the coconut flavor delightful (they were kind), and I didn’t lose sleep over this, but it did make me think about how when we figure out something we’re good at in life, how we focus on those things and they become what defines us. One batch of failed cookies is nothing much itself, but in the context of me fulfilling my role as Bringing of Things Sweet and Facilitator of Good Times and How Does She Possibly Find Time To Bake The Best Cookies?! the disappointment gave me pause.
Identity, how we’re perceived by our peers and others, ourselves, fascinates me. Once people have labeled you, trying to define yourself differently can feel impossible. And yet individuals redefine themselves all the time, some blatantly – I had a friend who would morph into a new person with each fresh boyfriend – and some simply because they evolve over time. Or because the role they’d been trying to fit into never really suited them and eventually they settled more into themselves. So much of life is that figuring out who we are and what that looks like and how to be this person inhabiting us when maybe we wish we were smarter, skinnier, more successful, richer, more confident, anything but the actual goofy flaw-ridden human being actually hanging out in our head. Factor in growth and change and challenge and devastation and success and love – no wonder some people seem stunned by life and others hardened or transcendent, depending.
I assess myself and move forward.
This morning’s kitchen moment fared better – although someone please tell me a trick for getting all the goat cheese off the plastic without making a huge mess. Unlike baking, random cooking can handle some experimentation, and I’ve been on this kick of making fancy toast (a slice of good bread layered with nut butter and thinly sliced apple, yogurt drizzled on top) or breakfast tortillas, which today resulted in a heated corn tortilla smeared with goat cheese and carefully cut Bartlett pear (on sale at the Co-op) with a dash of Humboldt Hot Sauce, Island Style.