The games tied 1-1 and the Red Sox are up to bat. It’s the bottom of the 9th and only this inning can tell if the game goes to extra innings. The first batter is up to plate, hits a single to center. The second batter comes up; he hits a sacrifice fly to right field, and the runner on first advances. Third batter hits another single down the third base line. With runners in scoring position the teams lead homerun hitter comes up to bat. Could the Red Sox win it all? “Lauren come in here and help me with dinner!” screamed my mom from the kitchen.
“But mom! The game!” I stammer out.
“Lauren get your butt in here you can watch TV after dinner.”
I hated cooking. I hated the kitchen, always calling me away from the best TV shows a girl could ask for. Without fail my mother could be cooking for hours and she would ask for my help right when something started to get good, or right before the killer was discovered. I think she did it on purpose.
I think I got my dislike of cooking from observing my father. My father is the type of man who will work from nine to five, spend the rest of the day (or till the sun goes down) making acquaintances with worms in his garden. Soon after he will come inside, eat the raw pick of the day and be content with life. He always enjoys his food in the purest of forms, straight from the garden with a little dirt still on it. While sitting on the couch drinking a beer and watching sports, of course. There was no time for this “cooking shit” that my mother is so proud of. But after my mother cooked, my father would eat her hot meal without a complaint or hesitation.
Never would my father lift a finger to help my mother cook dinner. “Cooking dinner is a women’s thing” he would say to me. I always wondered if it had something to do with the chaos he caused when he walked in the kitchen. He always thought the food needed something extra and he would shove countless “secret ingredients” in my mother’s face. This inevitably would result in a shouting match over who is the true cooker of dinner.
Mother on the other hand, she always tried to force a wooden spoon in my hand. Stir this, watch that, cut this, sauté that. When I was seven she tried to teach me how to cut up veggies for soup. I did not want any of that, so I cut my finger instead (in reality I was just very bad at cutting things with knives).
My mother reminds me of spinach. When spinach is fresh, it is a great addition to salad; it is sweet, crisp and fresh. But once you cook spinach, or you get my mother mad, it is sour, pungent and it resembles something that should have just remained in the garden. My extreme dislike of helping my mother in the kitchen, made her like cooked spinach.
“You need to learn how to cook!” my mother would shout, “How are you ever going to survive on your own!”
“Mom, I’m nine! I don’t care!” I would scream back. This was a good enough excuse until I was sixteen.
For my sixteenth birthday I asked for the top of the line field hockey stick, an acoustic guitar, and a kitten. Why do I remember this you may ask? For my sixteenth birthday my mother got me sixteen cookbooks, just what my mother wanted when she turned sixteen. This made me even more upset, “MOM I DON’T CARE ABOUT COOKING, JUST BECAUSE YOU DO DOESN’T MEAN I DO!” I screamed. I yelled. I cursed. I hated the heavy hard covered doorstoppers that my mother forced upon me.
“You’ll regret it when I’m gone.” She would argue back, for some reason she always thought I would care more if she threatened me with her own death. I never understood that.
Months into my sixteenth year I avoided the kitchen like the plague, always sneaking around it, making excuses to exit the front door instead of the garage door, which was located in the kitchen. Then one day while my mother was at work, I wanted something chocolaty, like a cookie. I went into the unoccupied kitchen, checking the time diligently to make sure my mother would not be home within the next four hours where she might catch me lingering in the kitchen looking for a snack. There was nothing to eat anywhere! Okay that might be a slight exaggeration. There was food everywhere, but not what I wanted. Bored, I sat down at the table and started thumbing through a dessert book my Mom had on the counter. That’s when my life changed forever. There on page 136 this lady, Betty Crocker, outlined what she called “Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies.” That was exactly what I was looking for! My existence in this world was justified. I was put on earth to make these cookies. With no prior baking background or experience I decided right then and there that these cookies would be my first culinary masterpiece.
I scrounged the kitchen looking for the ingredients. Three-fourths cup dark brown sugar and granulated sugar, what was this dark brown sugar? I could only find light brown sugar. To be on the safe side I used one cup of granulated sugar. Butter at room temperature? I did not have time for that! I melted it in the microwave instead. Baking soda? I didn’t like soda, I used powder instead. In the end the mixed glob that sat in the bowl before me, which contained one bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and one bag of M&M’s dumped in it, was the best thing I ever created. I scooped the slop onto a greased cookie sheet (even though the recipe clearly stated ungreased) and let it sit for the suggested amount of time. Or ten minutes more.
When the smoke detectors finally alerted me that the cookies were done, I pulled the pan from the oven to see that my creation faintly resembled chocolate chip cookies. I let them cool for about twenty seconds before shoving a three-hundred and seventy five degree cookie into my mouth, and losing all the skin in my mouth due to third degree mouth burns. Although they were burnt to a crisp I could taste it, the sweet taste of success (in retrospect it could have been some of the blood from my mouth burns too, but mostly success). This is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! I wanted to put masterpieces together using my hands, I wanted to be better than those people who bought their cookies in packages, and I wanted to change the world. I wanted to make sweets!
Hours passed as I waited with baited breath for my mother to come home so I could show her my culinary masterpiece. What I forgot about, was the fact that my mother is the kind of person who keeps her closets in alphabetical order, whereas I am the person who takes everything out and lays it on the kitchen counter and leaves it there. In laymen’s terms, the kitchen was the aftermath of a category five hurricane in a trailer park. When my mother walked through the doors she had a small heart attack and immediately started screaming that we’ve been robbed. When I finally managed to calm her down and tell her that I have been baking she almost had another heart attack. I showed her my creation, and with utter disgust she managed to crinkle her nose and attempted to hide her disgust and to applaud my creation. I could tell that she was still in distress from seeing her kitchen a mess, and couldn’t take in the beauty and wonder of my creation.
Over the next weeks, months and years to come, my mother would encourage my baking. She explained to me that unlike cooking, baking had to be precise and the recipe had to be followed exactly or you ended up with “globbly-gook” like my first attempt at cookies. She still tries to force me into helping her cook dinner, but after another incident with a knife she came to the conclusion that maybe I was more of a baker, and let me stick strictly to that. She took my sixteen cookbooks and turned them in to twenty-two recipe books strictly on desserts and sweets.
Today the smoke alarm no longer alerts me when my cookies are done; I take them out all by myself, well, with help from the kitchen timer. I no longer discard baking soda from recipes because of my dislike of soda, and I no longer make up my own amounts of sugar. My baking caused my family to change as well, my mother no longer nags me to get up off the couch when the game is on to help her with dinner. And my father no longer reaches for a dirt covered vegetable; he insists that a cookie or cupcake is way better than the crunch of gravel between your teeth, and I couldn’t agree more.
Life Changing Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s “Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies”
These cookies are the basic introduction to baking that even the person with the smallest kitchen experience can manage; just make sure to follow the measurements and the time exactly.
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
3/4 Cup packed brown sugar
1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 Teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon baking powder
1 Package (12 ounces or 2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
- Wisk sugars (brown and granulated), butter, vanilla and egg in a large bowl until mixed together and creamy
- Mix in with a wooden spoon flour, baking soda and salt, and mix. The dough will be stiff, mix until combined.
- Stir in the chocolate chips
- By rounded tablespoons drop cookie dough on an ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet and move to wire rack to cool completely