A Sweet Story

One of my favorite childhood memories was making cookies with my mom. When I was about five years old and my sister had started school, baking cookies was our time together. She would let me sit up on the counter next to the kitchenAid mixer, and I'd get a front row seat to all the action. I remember helping her measure flour and sugar, cracking the eggs, and smelling the vanilla. It was special because she didn't need my help, but she let me help.

After the chocolate chips were finally added, she'd give me a little spoonful to sample- mmm, heaven. My affinity for deserts took root early in life, and I would try to snag another bite or two if she left the room. Later when my tummy hurt from too much cookie dough, in shame I convinced myself that I had that salmonella she warned me about because I sampled again when I was told not to. However, I usually felt better by the time the cookies were baked. I'd watch the cookies in the window oven slowly rise and become round. They were soft in the middle with melty chocolate chips, and just slightly crisp edges.

As time went on I took less of a front row seat of the cookie baking. Maybe because I sampled too much, more likely because I was busy playing with my sister. I remember we would be upstairs in our playroom, imagining grand stories with our horses or dolls, and my mom would call up the stairs, "girls, cookies!". There was no better call up the stairs than this. My sister and I would lock excited eyes, drop our play things, and dart down the stairs. Mom was waiting there with her apron on, setting a plate of cookies accompanied by little glasses of milk on the table. It was just amazing to me- while my sister and I were busy playing, instead of playing or doing whatever grown ups do for fun, my mom chose to make us cookies. We were having a wonderful day inventing stories in our playroom, and she wanted to make it even better.

My junior year of high school I was in a play, and after school before our performance I wanted to make cookies for my friends. Mom wasn't home yet, so, a very novice baker, I made them by myself. I remember blasting my favorite music and dancing around the kitchen beating the dough with a wooden spoon. As I plopped the dough by rounded tablespoon onto the cookie sheet, something didn't look right. I didn't have much experience, so I didn't think anything of it. Ten minutes later when I opened the oven door, I saw spread out globs of liquid, chocolate chips standing up in the puddles. Something had gone terribly wrong.

I checked the recipe twice, confused and disappointed, and realized- I forgot the flour. The Flour! How could I have forgotten such a basic ingredient? I attempted to salvage my sad cookies by returning the puddles to the mixer and adding in the previously forsaken crucial ingredient of flour. Not only did I still desire to bring cookies to my cast mates, I also wanted mom to see I could bake cookies. As I placed the rounded tablespoonfuls on the sheet, these looked much more like cookies. Full of relief, I thought my chocolate chip creations could be saved yet.

Ten minutes later as the timer went off a second time, I opened the door full of confidence and was crushed. The cookies looked exactly like they did when I had put them in- they hadn't baked at all! Now, I was really frustrated. I had no idea what went wrong. I was a doomed baker. Just then, the garage door opened and Mom came in. I told her my conundrum- and she discovered that the oven was not on. When the timer beeped on the first batch, I confidently turned the oven off. No wonder- my globs of dough sat in an unheated oven, unchanged. Mom laughed with me at my errors in forgetting crucial ingredients and steps. As we laughed I felt less frustrated, and more amused. She turned the oven on for me and helped me clean up. I brought the cookies to my delighted friends- and they had no idea what I went through to bring the treats. That's how I wanted it though, I wanted to appear a confident (and competent) baker.

Over the next years I drastically improved my baking techniques. For three summers I babysat two young girls, spending my weekday 8:00- 2:00 with them.  I remember standing in the kitchen, humming to myself and mixing cookie dough, as I heard them playing upstairs. When the timer went off, I called up the stairs 'girls, cookies!' and they darted down from the playroom, joy on their faces. I understood why my mom made us playtime cookies, and it dawned on me that one day I wanted to do this for my own children.

Now, I make cookies for my husband every now and then. I bring out a plate as we are watching television and we dip them in milk and I give him the bigger, softer ones with more chocolate chips. I place them in little ziploc baggies and put them in his lunch.

For about the last eight years, my mom's side family has a tradition we like to call Cookie Day. It takes place in the weeks before Christmas, and we just bake all day long. There are all sorts of cookies, and yummy food to eat. Grandma always has lemonade, and a cousin brings mimosas. We aren't usually able to gather on Christmas day on this side of the family, but cookie day is just as treasured. I love the busyness of all the baking in the kitchen, the kids pouring too many sprinkles on frosted sugar cookies, my black pants covered in flour.

Last Thanksgiving, I got to witness my young nephew discovering cookies for the first time. I got to see his eyes light up when he heard or said the word 'cookie', and his delight watching my sister and mom prepare cookies for him. The look on his face when he says 'cookie' is the same look he has when he says 'playground' or 'mama' or 'doggy'.

I really love cookies and have sentimental feelings towards them, and I think it's not just because of the way they taste. When I look back, cookies tell a sweet story in my life. They tell a story of thoughtfulness, of giving, of family, and togetherness. They bring back memories of growing up and being cared for gently and warmly. I guess this is why Tollhouse's slogan is 'bake some love' and a catch phrase is 'let's bake some memories'. They tell a story of wanting to bring joy to someone else. Cookies represent delight.

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