My understanding of the power in a homemade cookie dawned on me when I was eight.
My Ohio-born mother, whose attitude toward the California natural-food obsession remains at best respectfully disinclined, allowed my younger sister and I to stay home from school with minor colds. After resting on our old couch for a few hours, sniffly and bored, she coaxed us into the kitchen, placed each of us on stepping stools and began a batch of our favorite—chocolate chip, oatmeal, and rice crispy—cookies. It was our cure-all, and one that she continues to prescribe to the kids in her life today.
As my sister and I grew up, young neighbors started knocking on the door, begging to come over and bake with my mom. Today she holds her two-year-old nephew on her hip as she takes out little spoonfuls of dough for him to taste and gives him handfuls of chips to toss into the bowl.
Respected chefs often, nearly entirely, omit the cookie from their menus. Instead, diners are forced to navigate dessert options like “peerless organic coffee and mocha soufflé” (at San Francisco’s Carnelian Room) and “coconut vacherin with passion fruit ice cream and kiwi sherbet” (at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse). No comfy cookies there.
Even today, two decades later, my mom and I can barely get through a weekend together without devising some excuse to bake. The process is inherently uniting and restorative: White, powdery flour. Coarse sugar. Creamy butter. Stir. Eggs and vanilla. Stir. Flour and baking soda and salt. Stir. Chocolate. Stir. Then the baker digs her hands in, pulls pieces out of the moist dough, and forms them into balls. Each mound is handled and shaped by her two hands. Each ball’s very form, whether big or small, lopsided or lacking in chips, is entirely her own. Or, in our case, our own.
Today most of my homemade cookies are neatly stacked, wrapped in parchment paper and carefully placed into tins, in which they’re brought over to a friend’s apartment, given away in a giant bundle, or even shipped around the world. (Alas, a girl can only eat so many cookies.) The moist-in-the-middle and just crispy enough to require a bit of a bite around the outside treats are now my gifts. Handed over in exchange for watching someone else enjoy them as much as I do, as a thank you, a nice-to-meet-you, an I’m sorry, or a just-because.
They’re something so simple, a cookie—the word has a straightforward idea attached to it—and they’re more. They’re pretty little things that have a history, accumulated thought, feelings and affection.
And you can’t find that in any flourless dark chocolate, whipped hazelnut crème fraiche torte.
Karen’s (Cure-Everything) Cookies with a Crunch
Mix: 1 cup unsalted butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup brown sugar
Add: 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla
Add: 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt
Stir in: 2 cups oatmeal, 2 cups rice crispies, 2 cups chocolate chips
Batter will be stiff. Drop by spoonful onto greased cookie sheet and bake 12–15 minutes at 350 degrees.