Sugar cookies … a confection with connotations of pleasant childhood moments, the loving mother leaning over the oven with her floured apron, and a cup of warm cocoa to accompany these addictively sweet treats. In my effort to provide loving memories for my two boys, I nearly lost my sanity and a perfectly good electric mixer. Let me provide a little back story for you.
Cooking was never a skill of mine. Upon meeting my mother, my husband (fiance’ then) was told, “It’s my fault Laura doesn’t know how to cook. I never allowed her in the kitchen.” So here I am, about to get married and without a lick of mixing, boiling, sauteeing, baking, simmering ability. Luckily, I have a patient spouse who possesses unbelievable culinary abilities. It was those very cooking skills that wooed me early in our courtship. He grilled me a steak and baked fudge brownies. No, it wasn’t some pretentious pilaf or fluffy souffle, but I could cut my steak without the use of a knife and the brownies were quintessential perfection. I thought, “If this man can pay such close attention to detail in making this modest meal, imagine how attentive he could be to me.” My assessment was spot on, and through the years my husband has held my hand while navigating the kitchen mysteries I was never privy to before.
So, back to my cookies. Baking isn’t my strong suit, but I had made such strides in every other area of cooking, I figured, “What the hell!” Following the instructions perfectly, I ended up with what could only be compared to clumps of damp sand. I rushed to my computer, checking and re-checking the recipe and searching in vain for a contingency plan. It was only upon reading the reviews of this less-than-stellar sugar cookie recipe that I noticed every single one indicated that the recipe called for entirely too much flour. So, with much trepidation, I improvised my recipe. (Having already put all of the four cups of flour in the mix.) Once I got the mixture pliable, I placed it on my “lightly-floured working surface.” As I began to knead the dough, images of strong, nurturing, matriarchal figures from civilizations past flooded my mind. Who cares if I was over-mixing? I had my fingers on the pulse of Mother Earth herself and I wasn’t about to just let go. I felt instantly connected to all of the mothers, sisters and aunts that had done this exact repetitive motion during preparations for rituals, tribal gatherings, and rites of passage. As I continued to roll my creation repeatedly, a sense of community was palpable in my soul.
The activities of cooking, sewing, and nurturing bind us women together. Don’t misunderstand me—I do not mean to say that a woman’s place is only in the home. Any person, male or female, that takes on the task of managing a household knows that it’s more than just cooking and cleaning. The act of baking cookies is more than mixing ingredients in order to achieve an end result. The love and care that goes into everything we do as domestic engineers is what makes our efforts truly special. As caregivers, we are connected to something larger and profound. If I were suddenly transported to another place and time while kneading my sugar cookie dough, I could have easily been preparing an ancient recipe for a harvesting ritual atop a sandy mesa some time before the discovery of the New World. Our jobs are more than just a series of motions. Or at least they don’t have to be.
As I wait for my cookie dough to chill, I have accepted the fact that they may taste like sweetened cardboard, but it won’t negate the irrepressible connection I felt. Sometimes a sugar cookie is more than just a cookie. It’s a representation of the proverbial “icing on the cake” of life; lagniappe, if you will. It’s not a necessity like the healthy dinners we make for our families. Families from ages past knew this as well. In today’s society, acquiring the needed ingredients is a lot easier than for the average family eons ago. With a WalMart around every corner and a serious lack of snarling carnivores to worry about, we have things much easier. However, the love and attention that goes into baking never died.
Never dismiss the power of a perfectly-baked dessert.