One of the best things about being a kid in my parents’ house was that most days when I got home from school there was a snack waiting on the kitchen table. Sometimes it was a big bowl of popcorn, lightly buttered and well-salted, to be gulped down with an equally large glass of orange juice, or a batch of mini corn muffins, or a batch of regular-sized blueberry muffins, or cheese and crackers, or any one of many delicious treats, all of which I unfortunately can’t remember. My brother and I would come home from school, drop our things, go see the kittens (appropriately they were also a brother-sister pair), and then swing by the kitchen to see what was what.
The very best days, of course, were the cookie days.
My mom bakes a great chocolate chip cookie — and indeed, now that her kids are grown and out of the house she has much more time to try out new recipes, with great success — but the ones she used to make were just perfect. I remember them as being pretty flat and not-too-beautiful, but that didn’t matter one bit. The recipe may even have come from the back of the chocolate-chip package which didn’t matter one bit either. They were good. And when they were just out of the oven, warm and melting, the whole house filled up with the smell of blended butter and sugar and chocolate, they were childhood.
The proper way to eat cookies, then and now, is with a glass of milk. Tea is a fine substitute, and if it’s a work-day morning coffee will suffice, but really nothing compares to a cookie dipped in a glass of cold milk. (Yes, I’m a dipper. I’m not ashamed.) I don’t even really drink milk anymore — in my morning cuppa, yes, but very rarely on its own — but with cookies … Well, now. That’s a whole different story.
A cookie without milk is like Othello without Iago. I think you know what I mean. If just one cookie seems enough to satisfy an aching sweet tooth, the glass of milk is what spurs the furtive next bite; it urges you to reach for another, and another, if only to make sure the milk doesn’t slip down unaccompanied. Milk whispers to you that it’s alright to keep on chomping away, though are you sure you won’t regret it in the morning when your pants stretch a bit tighter? Don’t you want just one more? — go ahead, it’s fine, you don’t have to get all overdramatic about it. It’s really quite impossible to think of one without the other. Cookies and milk: forever friends, inextricably entwined, for better or worse (oh for better, for the most part. Actually, definitely for the better, especially if the milk is organic and comes from a Clover cow.).
Cookies, like cupcakes, are simply perfect for me. If a whole slice of cake is daunting — and believe me it is sometimes — a cookie or two satisfies the occasional wish for something sweet without setting me over the edge. (Cookies that combine both the elusive sweet-salty, the search for which I swear I’d happily undertake for the rest of my life if it resulted in such delicacies as browned butter brown sugar cookies, are simply indescribable.) I like a good chocolate chip cookie, of course, but my current favorite is my oatmeal-chocolate chip, thick with butter and baked long enough to snap when you bit into it. I’d also take an ethereal macaron, stuffed with hazelnut or chocolate creme, melting and sweet. Delicate, lemon-laced sugar cookies are also amenable to a dunk in the milk bath though in this case I might actually argue for a cup of tea. I love mini-madeleines, vegan ginger-snaps, simple peanut butter cookies with a dusting of sea salt. I will gladly eat chocolate butter cookies, Viennese crescents, and a plate of the sesame-seed cookies indicative to the holidays ’round my house and which I haven’t made in years.
This cool near-spring is full of sun and blue skies. Now is the time for ocean days and moon rises over the bay and sunlight drifting down past clouds and into the water. Therse are the days when the wind whips over the waves and stings your eyes amid the white, bright fierceness of the day and it is all glittering and golden so much so you can hardly breath. I wish I had a sailboat — and the ability to sail it — so I could take sandwiches and bottles of sparkling water and go out for an afternoon to drift through the mouth of the golden gate out to sea, maybe even as far as the Farrallons, which you can see from the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse on clear days. I am wishing space for a garden in which I’d plant sunflowers tall enough to reach the sky; corn standing still and straight; berries and stone fruits; squashes and broccoli, peppers and tomatoes and cucumbers; sweet herbs and sharp.
Now is the time for dreaming (and cookies).
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from the Better Home and Gardens Cookbook
3/4 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl cream shortening, brown sugar and white sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
Combine the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour and stir into creamed mixture. Add the oats and chocolate chips, and stir until well blended.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.
Some of my favorite cookie recipes: