Sacred Cookies, Or, My Life as an Unholy Cook
November 17, 2011 § 4 Comments
I just slid the foulest cookies into the oven.
I doggedly maintain that if you present people with enough food, they will eventually begin to repay you in more food. As a perpetually hungry person, I see in many relationships this latent possibility for food to begin appearing, if only I can trigger it. The best way to flip that inner switch, I reason, is to offer them food again and again. One day, they realize what a joy it is to share food, and begin happily reciprocating. People are like a garden you invest food in, and more food comes out.
This has almost never proved fruitful. Usually, the people who are going to offer you food will do it whatsoever you do, and those unaccustomed to sharing will turn their nose at the bounties you offer them. So when I found that the gaming group I just joined seemed already ripe to my peculiar brand of training, I was pretty excited. People were offering to take turns. People baked sometimes. Pressure was low, results were high.
My sole quest for the day was to bake something – anything – delicious to bring. I must maintain the tradition. Someone brought cookies last time. I would bring cookies this time. This obviously indicated that so long as I fulfilled my part in the cycle, someone would bring cookies next week. The cookies of the future depend on me. I am but a cog in the great machinations by which cookies appear every week. This is a moment of serious responsibility, and I face it without fear.
I am a terrible cook. I hear being a terrible cook and a terrible baker are different acts, but I am unable to distinguish them. Just like I am unable to distinguish olive oil from vegetable oil, or experimentation from blatantly disregarding the instructions.
I picked the simplest chocolate-related recipe I could find. I was about halfway through the grueling process of mixing ingredients in two different bowls and combining them, before I realized I had already fucked up beyond belief. By the time I scooped the chocolately batter onto the tray, I was crying, defeated by the lingering taste in my mouth of what was to become unmistakably terrible cookies. I ignored the instruction to coat the top with confectioner’s sugar. It seemed unimaginably cruel to make something so tainted look even more delicious.
I have a special inability to prepare food. Early in my attempts, so-called ‘friends’ used to gather to watch the debacle, helping to boost my culinary self esteem with “Oh, let’s see how she fucked up this time!” I have melted burgers, burnt rice in full pots of water, and mixed concoctions so unholy that they are still crusted to the counter in old rental houses. When I walk into a kitchen, I enter an alternate universe where anything is possible so long as it is horrible.
I blame this in part on my early baking experiments. Seeking to make cookies, I would determinedly stir flour and water together. Getting the right consistency was tough, and, I assumed, the basis for good baking. Eventually it would mix into a paste I could put in the toaster oven, and a little while later I would be rewarded with what I assumed to be primitive rubber. My parents would gum it appreciatively (it was unchewable), and we would throw it all out, mission accomplished. As I grew older, my brother and I discovered if you added sugar, it was marginally more consumable. Recently, I asked my mother why in the world she had stood by while I manufactured plastic. I know she isn’t a baker, but would it really take so much work to show me how to add in a few eggs? “I’m sure I tried, and you were stubborn and wanted to do it your way, and wouldn’t let me show you,” she said, and I couldn’t argue. Neither of us really remember it.
For my coup-de-grace, I just burnt this batch. No, I’m trying to be optimistic – I “over-hardened” them. But in walks my housemate, who insists they taste just fine. I guess she can’t identify the lingering hint of olive oil under the extra vanilla and chocolate I desperately dumped in.
Now I can bring this to a close, and go do my part in the great cycle of cookie-bringing.
If my offering is acceptable, I believe my reward will come.