October 22, 2013

Higher Education and the Holy Cookie

P1100874.jpgOn the greatest chocolate-chip cookie in the known universe, with recipe....

The Critical American Issue of the Day

This issue is not, as many would have you believe, whether or not the Constitution is a "living document" (It will be a living document on the day that it breaks out of its case and takes the current Supreme Court out for a drink, a toke, a smoke, and a poke -- assuming Justice Ginsberg stays home.), but is centered instead on the much more important and utterly American question: "Just what is the finest chocolate chip cookie in the known universe?"

One night in the Hood River Hotel in Hood River, Oregon on the banks of the Columbia, I had a chance to examine that question again just before the cataleptic sugar shock of nine home-made chocolate chip cookies knocked me sideways for eight hours like a poleaxed pound puppy.

When this coma finally released me, I thought more deeply on the question of the Holy Cookie and what makes for greatness. I would have liked to hand the baker of the cookies that conked me the laurels but I cannot.

I shall explain the nature of my judgment, the history behind it, and also, should you choose to stay with me, provide you and you alone with the recipe for, "the finest chocolate chip cookie in the known universe."

First of all, anything that can be purchased in a supermarket is not fit to be called a cookie, much less a chocolate chip cookie, no matter how thick the BS on the package may be. Especially any with the word "artisan" on the package which must be incinerated in situ. We're all agreed on that, right? Right.

Second, do not be fooled by "boutique" chocolate chip cookies. They are all from Satan's Workshop and are, therefore, instruments of the Enemy who is out to weaken the intellectual and moral fiber of America. Consumption of these cookies leads, inevitably to "a profound sense of fatigue... a feeling of emptiness [and] loss of essence." You may, in a moment of weakness after, say, a friendly strip search at the air port, find that you cannot "avoid" these cookies, but under no circumstances are you to give them your essence.

Eat Not the Cookie of Satan

Yes, ever since Mrs. Fields rightly determined that her days of getting on the covers of the Adam and Eve and Victoria's Secret catalogues were over and she went into the sidewalk-blower bakery business, these evil simulacra of chocolate chip cookies have spread over the American landscape like the Eighth Plague of Egypt. The results are murder, insanity, death and an obesity so monumental that the victims do not so much walk our streets as teeter through them -- a threat to passersby, lost pets and unreinforced brick structures.

Do not, I repeat, consume boutique chocolate chip cookies. Pass by these scented and seductive venues of the Fifth Horseman. Deny them, I say, your essence.

Instead, know that small batch, by hand, and home-made chocolate chip cookies are the only chocolate chip cookies that may even begin to aspire to the realm of the Sacred and the Holy. A realm in which, like wives, many are cold but none are frozen. Indeed, if Nestles, dairy farms and refrigeration had existed at the time of the Last Supper the entire menu of Holy Communion would be different today.

Partake Only of the Holy Cookie

Like American Christianity today, the Church of the Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie has many branches, subsets and sects. And, like American Christianity, these various factions contend mightily over the question of which, in the eyes of God, is the true gospel of the Chocolate Chip, the Recipe of the Word.

I do not pretend to know the mind of God. Indeed, I am still unclear about the workings of the will of God in my life. But I am clear about what is the true gospel of the Chocolate Chip. I know beyond a scintilla of a speck of an iota of a jot of a doubt that single Cookie which is now and forever shall be the Greatest Chocolate Chip Cookie in America and the Known Universe, yea even unto that alien planet of the hard-bodied and the homeless, San Francisco.

This Cookie Given by the Hand of God would be, beyond question, of my sainted mother's chocolate chip cookies. These and these alone are the good, the true, and the blessed -- the Holy Cookies. All others crumble before them and return to the dust and detritus of the earth from which they were mistakenly called forth by the unconverted, the heathen and the apostates.

The Advent of the Holy Cookie

I was converted to the Holy Cookie soon after my teeth came in. For several years thereafter I lived in heavenly bliss since the only person in the house with whom I had to contend for ALL the cookies was my father and, even though he was much larger than I was as a toddler, he had to work and sleep sometime. This left me free to range about the kitchen in search of yet one more Holy Cookie. Something I did at all hours until my mother saw fit to deploy a leg shackle along with my fresh pajamas.

Alas, Eden was not to endure forever since I had a couple of brothers coming along in the years that followed. With the advent of these "cookie competitors" the leg shackle was retired, but I was required to learn the always difficult lesson of "Share."

As the eldest and hence the largest, my capacity to "share" the plate of Holy Cookies my mother would set out for us diminished in direct proportion to the distance between that plate and my mother and/or father, or both. Sharing was on as long as they were in the room, but if they stepped out my little inner Hitler would emerge and endeavor to take all the cookies and the Rhineland as well.

This dictatorial method of getting all the cookies only served me well for a few years. It fell apart on the day it came to my attention that my "little" brother had at last grown large enough to literally kick my ass when it came to taking more than my share of cookies.

Day of the Judgment of the Father

On that day I was also foolish enough to kick back in an effort to retain my rightful share of all the cookies. A small war broke out in the kitchen which caused my mother to come in from the laundry room, break us up, take all the cookies away and cast both my brother and I into the slough of despond by uttering the phrase no child ever, ever wishes to hear from his mother: "Wait till your father gets home."

An afternoon longer than eternity squared ensued. Our father did get home and subsequently gave instructions to my brother and myself, in turns, on why it was a bad idea to have a fist fight over chocolate chip cookies in his house. He reminded us both of his first and only commandment, "Thou shalt not upset thy mother." It was a lesson that is "seared, SEARED!, into my memory."

Like all sinners, this lesson made us repent briefly but did not actually reform. Instead we made an alliance in order to ensure our survival and advance our quest for the Holy Cookie. Sensing, as she always did, this shift in the order of things, my mother took to hiding the Holy Cookies about the house.

She knew that my father favored the cookies, and that if they were not hidden from us, the chances he would have any upon 'getting home' would range from slim to somewhere below absolute zero. She became, as all mothers of boys must, sneaky. She began to bake the cookies while we were at school, hide them before we got home. She'd also take care to destroy all evidence that the Holy Cookies had been baked and would carefully air out the house. She always was a clever woman.

Quest for the Holy Cookie

But we were two to her one; the smallest band of brothers on a mission from God. In no time, we found ourselves cowlick deep in a war of spying and surveillance against our own mother. It was a cold war that escalated over time as our methods of sensing and locating the hidden cookies became increasingly sophisticated. Towards the end, these methods became so refined that we could have found a single small Weapon of Mass Destruction under the shifting sands of the Sahara if it happened to have a Holy Cookie in the war head.

But we never were required to go that far afield, even if we once found them in the garage of the people who lived next door. (Their kid, our mole, tipped us off for a paltry three cookies.) Over the years we found them at the bottom of the clothes hamper in the master bath, behind a box of motor oil in the garage, in the trunk of her car, under the camouflage of towels in the dryer, behind the set of World Book Encyclopedias in the den, even taped in coffee cans and stuck up under the kitchen counter concealed behind the disposal unit.

Once, in her despair, she actually sealed them in a large container and buried them behind the shrubs in the back yard. We found them by checking carefully for disturbed earth, and that night snuck out after our parents were asleep, disinterred them with a trowel, ate them all on the spot, and then buried the container again with a Crayoned note that said, "Delicious, The Avengers." We were bludgeoned with meatloaf sandwiches in our school lunchboxes for a week after that one.

Spies in the House of the Holy Cookie

Mothers know a lot of secrets about their children, but not all secrets. My mother's favorite way of finding out our secrets was a simple psyche-war method of asserting that she knew what she didn't know in order to elicit a confession. She'd give us "that look" and say, "Well, you might as well know that I know."

"Know? Know what?"

"You know what, so you might as well tell me."

It shames me now to admit that this simple ploy worked on more than one occasion. What never worked, and what she was never to figure out, was how we knew when the Holy Cookies had been made.

Early on it dawned on her that we were watching the house supply of Nestle's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. When those bags were used or diminished, it would be a dead give-away that there were cookies to be located and my brother and I would, as a team, work the grid. Using step-stools, ladders, and a mirror attached to a broom-handle that I kept taped above the door in my closet, there was no area of the home we could not scan. Sooner or later, once we knew they were around, we'd find them. Kids don't have many resources, but they do have oceans of time.

Her solution, so she thought, was to buy replacement bags of chocolate chips before baking a batch. In that way, she foolishly assumed we'd assume -- seeing a full bag undisturbed -- that no cookies had been baked that day. What she did not know, and was never to learn, was that each bag of chocolate chips in the house was marked with a small dot of ink on the lower right hand corner of the back of the bag as soon as we could get to it in stealth mode. We'd check the bag daily after that and when it did not have that mark we would know the truth.

We also, as a back-up, used faint pencil marks, not on the level of Scotch in my father's bottle (that was to come later), but on the canister of Quaker Oats which were another essential ingredient of the Holy Cookie. She bought the economy sized canister and we discovered that using a red pencil on the red part of the package was almost undetectable unless you were looking for it, which we always were.

The Holy Cookie Cold War

The Holy Cookie Cold War of stealth and surveillance continued across the years until my second brother and I left the home for college. My mother breathed a sigh of relief at our departures. Little did she know that before we left we had passed on the full Holy Cookie Finder File to our little brother ten years my junior. He carried on the tradition until he too left. At which point my mother brought out the apple shaped cookie jar which had been stored away for decades and began to enjoy the long peace as well as a cookie or two from time to time.

Except, of course, there would be no peace. The begging letters and phone calls came in from colleges, apartments and houses across the country and down through the years. From time to time, these pathetic screeds and whines would elicit a package of the Holy Cookie, but only at the kind of interval that makes the Pavlovian Rat press the pellet bar that much more compulsively. As long as she held the keys to the Holy Cookie, my mother knew she would hear from us frequently.

But the technology of the time was working against us and the Holy Cookie. This was the pre-eBay era when packing and shipping were still lost arts to most Americans. Lost most of all, I regret to say, to our mother.

East of Eden and the Problem of the Post Office

For while she could bake, she could not ship. As a result of this and the less-than-reverent attitude of the United States Postal Service, the shipments of the Holy Cookies would arrive transmogrified into the Holy Cookie Crumbs. It is, I have discovered, very difficult to dunk a crumb into a glass of cold milk to any sort of meaningful effect other than crummy milk.

After suffering our complaints for longer than anyone other than a mother would, she finally took drastic action. She had to. After all, she had a life to live, friends to see, places to go and tennis sets to play. We were grown men now with fully dysfunctional families of our own, and she was no longer going to allow herself to be crucified on the golden cross of the Holy Cookie.

And so it was that on one faithful day, her three sons received in the mail, not the Holy Cookies for which they begged, but the Holy Cookie recipe and instructions that they learn to cook. I love my mother, but she can be a cold woman once she makes up her mind.

The Torch is Passed to a New Generation

On the other hand, my need was great and my understanding of the gap between desire and gratification scant. And so I learned, at last, to cook. It was one of my mother's many fine and enduring gifts, perhaps the finest next to, of course, life itself.

First, out of sheer necessity, I learned the Holy Cookie and, when that turned out well after only a few disasters, I went on to learning to cook other things. Things like entrees, side dishes, bread and desert right down to and including a Chocolate Souffle.

As my confidence grew I took to exotic dishes and found myself in a Chinese cooking course. Other cuisines followed. I even, during my stint as a book editor for Houghton Mifflin, published one cookbook ( Fear of Cooking: The Absolutely Foolproof Cookbook for Beginners (And Everyone Else) by Robert Scher Amazon rank: 1,332,536 which is not that bad for a book published in 1984).

And so, from a cookie recipe, I grew to have one of the basic life skills that everyone should have; a skill no longer taught in our schools since it is much more important that our children learn the Inner Meaning of the Inner Child of the Maori-Americans than how to do anything with food other than pick a number at the drive-through window. I learned it from my mother who taught it to me not by doing, but by standing out of the way and not doing; by letting me discover how to do it myself. That's always the path to the real higher education in life. It's a path never taught in our crippled schools but always open to everyone regardless of age, color, creed, national origin. All you have to have to get on the path is the need to learn something and the passion to do it yourself.

That and a recipe. Here it is. What are you waiting for? Gentlemen, start your ovens.

=======


BEHOLD I BRING YOU TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY

MOM'S (Lois Lucille McNair Van der Leun's ) CLASSIC OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Please note: It is not to be made merely by combing the ingredients but by following the procedure, the sacred ritual.

Combine: 3/4 Cup brown sugar with 3/4 Cup white sugar.
Mix in until smooth but gritty 1 cup shortening ( Crisco [classic] or butter/marge + Crisco in varying proportions )* This, and other mixing moments, can be done with your hands if a) you have washed them, and b) nobody's around to see you do it. Maintain plausible deniability.

Add 2 eggs -- Beaten-- plus 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Combine One and 1/2 Cups flour with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon soda and then work into sugar, shortening and egg mixture until smooth.

Add two cups of rolled oats and work into the dough. Add one 12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips (No more. Resist temptation.) and (optional) 1 cup chopped black walnuts**. Shape into medium-sized (no more than 3" in diameter, baked) cookies and bake on a greased cookie sheet

Bake in a 350 oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Monitor at around 8 minutes.

The recipe is usually good for 2-3 standard size cookie sheets. When baking, it is best to start one tray in the lower rack of the oven and after eight minutes move it to the upper.

Allow to cool. You will snake three to five and burn your lip on the first bite, but try to show a little restraint after this, okay?

Yield: 4-5 Dozen

Note: The Holy Cookie, when baked to perfection, should not be chewy or soft but possess, upon being cooled, a toothsome quality and a certain proportion of crisp-walled open cells throughout the cookie that absorb milk when dunked, but do not become a milk sodden mush. The milk should be present within the cells of the cookie, but the cookie itself, providing one has not be lazy and let it just slosh around in the glass, should still retain a certain crispness and emit a distinct crunch when consumed.

* Yes, Crisco. This ancient pure product of Amerca can still be found in the baking aisle. The Holy Cookies cannot achieve their proper milk absorbing properties without its presence. If you have some sort of issue with Crisco, get over it and just cowboy up. While butter or margarine can be used in combination with Crisco, their proportions are problematical. One stick is probably the maximum.

** Black Walnuts are optional but not, strictly speaking, classic. Still, they add an extra texture which is appealing, unless, of course, you are allergic to walnuts in which case you eat them and you die -- happy and with an enhanced skill set.

[ UPDATED FROM 5 YEARS AGO]

Posted by Vanderleun at October 22, 2013 5:58 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Thank you. Great recipe. Great story.

Posted by: Sara Thomas at May 17, 2005 1:47 PM

Interesting story. Being the youngest of seven, I for years thought that the cookie jar was where we kept the crumbs. I have recipe of similar proportions. Hint: instead of walnuts, try chopped pecans. There's an interesting dichotomy between pecans and brown sugar.

Posted by: ed in texas at May 17, 2005 2:20 PM

You visited your Mom lately Gerard? Sounds like it's time amigo. Take her some cookies.

Posted by: Steel Turman at May 17, 2005 3:18 PM

My father e-mailed this article to me today. The delightful irony is that just yesterday I shipped him a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies that he should be receiving tomorrow for his birthday. In our household it was the child who did the baking and the daddy who did most of the eating. Even though my father complains that I ruin his diet by sending cookies, there is nothing else as unique and treasured that I can give to this man who can buy whatever he wants for himself. BTW, I must respectfully disagree on the Crisco issue. My cookies come out flatter than most due to the melting of the lovely butter in the oven, but they are just fine for dunking.

Posted by: dkr in ca at May 17, 2005 3:22 PM

My chocolate chip cookie of choice since early childhood has been classic Chips Ahoy. (Not the "chewy" version.) When I'm feeling decadent I go for the huge chocolate chocolate chip flying saucers made by Pepperidge Farm, with whatever nits they put in them. That's just the way it is.

Posted by: Yehudit at May 17, 2005 4:10 PM

Well, Judith, we're just going to have to wait until you go out and then shut the pod bay doors. When you ask to have them opened, I'll just have to say "I'm sorry Judith, I'm afraid I can't do that. That's just the way it is."

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at May 17, 2005 4:26 PM

but the cookie itself...should still retain a certain crispness and emit a distinct crunch.

I should have known a gentleman as perceptive as you would be a crunchy-cookie guy. Down with soft cookies, their bakers, and the godless nations who harbor them!

Posted by: Mike Anderson at May 17, 2005 6:02 PM

Well, as soon as I get over my latest Atkins Diet, I will make this batch of cookies and get back to you with the results. This will be just in time for a family get together. For some reason only the Atkins Diet is the one that my body is in synch with. I can eat zero calories and gain weight; it's very strange. But when the time comes, I'll make these cookies and share them with loved ones. A friend has shared a fabulous pancake recipe, if you are interested. Thanks.

Posted by: Barbara Spaldng at May 17, 2005 9:57 PM

You have got to be kidding me! Soft cookies vs. slightly crunchy cookies? They are all fabulous! DOWN with people who don't care for the lovely, soft chocolate chip cookie. LOVE LOVE LOVE the soft cookie on the right occasion. You are missing out if you don't enjoy the soft chocolate chip cookie. That's okay though. More for me. :-)

Posted by: Ashley at May 17, 2005 10:00 PM

Hi -

Oatmeal?

Oatmeal?

Oatmeal?

Oatmeal in a chocolate chip cookie?

Heathen.

:-)

John, who prefers his oatmeal keeps company with raisins, not chocolate chips, in order to keep the universe from imploding.


Oatmeal?

Posted by: John F. Opie at May 18, 2005 2:04 AM

You can be forgiven for not knowing better.

But next time, check with me first.

Posted by: Everyman at May 18, 2005 7:47 AM

Firstly, let me just say that I am in total awe at your writing style. I never know what I will find when I come here, but I always know that it will be quality.
Having said that, I'm a firm believer in farming out certain jobs, especially if I've found someone who performs that job perfectly. Lucky for me, I turned over the kitchen to the lady of the house 10 years ago, and though I consider myself a fairly good cook, she is better, and I've never regretted this choice. Let's raise a glass of milk to all of the cookie bakers out there. Mmmm, good.

Posted by: JM at May 18, 2005 10:47 AM

I agree about the oatmeal. Never, never, never! Oatmeal in a chocolate chip cookie makes it an oatmeal cookie.

You've been my inspiration, though. My own tale of dessert-stealing derring-do can be found here.

Posted by: neo-neocon at May 18, 2005 10:56 AM

As I said, there are many subsets and sects in the Church of the Holy Cookie.

There must, in the true church, however be oatmeal. No oatmeal is a heresy, anathema, and abomination! It shall be crushed by causing all your non-oatmeal cookies to be burned in the tray!

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at May 18, 2005 11:08 AM

Well. I do believe that while eating my OATMEAL chocolate chip cookies with dark raisins, freshly baked and still warm from the oven I may have been studying math or language. I learned a great deal in a most yummy way. The slight tang of the oatmeal with the burst of a semi-sweet morsel of chocolate is absolutely wonderful for a snack. You, who don't care for the oatmeal and the chocolate chip are really missing out on a taste variation adventure. Certainly, there isn't much that beats the basic chocolate chip recipe, however, variety is part of the spice of life.

Couldn't we get particular about the type of chocolate? Milk chocolate vs. Semi-sweet vs. Dark? OKay. White chocolate does not exist in my world. I've tried it once to see what it is. I tried it twice to make sure that my original analysis was correct and white chocolate in any color is a horrid product. Sorry for all of you white chocolate lovers possibly reading this. Dark chocolate is the absolute best. Semi-sweet will do when dark chocolate is unavailable.

I can understand why the snobbery about what kind of cookie you want to eat. It's how you want to spend your calories right? I mean... why eat something sweet when you are not completely enthused about it. At the same time, why judge someone else who thoroughly enjoys the variety the chocolate chip cookie and other ingredients offer. Every here and there at least.

What about potato salad or worse... cole slaw. Will you eat cole slaw from just any ol' place?

Posted by: Ashley at May 19, 2005 9:37 AM

that is the longest choclate chip cookie recipie I have ever read.

Posted by: dave bones at May 19, 2005 11:00 AM

WOW all that for a cookie!!

Posted by: at March 24, 2006 10:43 AM

Mrs Fields. On an Adam and Eve catalogue? There are innumerable ways to get your cookies I guess...
I need to lie down for a minute and think about oatmeal. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Posted by: Dan Patterson at April 12, 2006 6:09 AM

God bless the chocolate chip cookie. Your Father and Mother as well.

Posted by: jeffersonranch at April 12, 2006 7:01 AM

Posers. The only true cookie is the peanut butter cookie. Rich with the bite of natural peanut butter made as only the 1960s could make it. None of that chemical crap in today's store bought, or the pretentious artifice of the modern ersatz natural.

Peanut butter and brown sugar mixed into white floor and eggs and baked in a hot oven on Crisco slathered cookie pans. Then cooled on paper towels while three antsy boys pester mom to distraction, and she is forced to gift each with one apiece and send the squealing nits out into the front yard.

And if the fingers got burnt, "Well, that'll teach ya."

(We learned alot about manual dexterity from peanut butter cookies.)

Cookies and Kool-aid on hot summer afternoons. Cookies and milk on cool, autumn evenings. Cookies and hot cocoa on cold, rainy days. On occasion oatmeal, when there was nothing else to be had, chocolate chip. But when it mattered, peanut butter.

Speak to me not of such travesties as chocolate chip -- or that blashemous concoction, oatmeal raisin -- the only true ambrosia is the peanut butter cookie.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at April 12, 2006 7:47 AM

To know the best cookie recipe is one thing. But to know that you know is to take this into the realm of pure metagustable knowledge. For to say that you can know anything about cookies is to say that you can know everything about them, which you obviously do. Thus, in knowing these cookies, you know the absolute--you know God. But you knew that already.

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at April 12, 2006 8:20 AM

Take it another step, Gagdad. Gerard knows the absolute cookie, and knows God, because he is God. If this is true, we'd better not piss him off. Better destroy all the other chocolate chip cookie receipes.

Just one little note about food technology. The cookies are crisp and crumbly instead of bread-like because the Crisco "shortens" the gluten bonds of the flour. Yes, that is why we call fats like crisco "shortening". If you warm the Crisco or the dough you reduce the effect. Don't use your hands to mix cookie or biscuit dough, it warms it and makes it less tender, crisp and crumbly.

On the other hand, bread rises better when we maximize gluten, so warming the shortening is a good idea and hand mixing and kneading is ideal. Warm hands, warm heart, wonderful bread. But use a wooden spoon for mixing chocolate chip cookies, and for smacking the backsides of the little hooligans who try to eat the dough!

Posted by: AskMom at April 12, 2006 10:12 AM

To avoid all potential lightning strokes or other celestial humor, I wish to state, right now and for the record, that I am not God. I wouldn't mind more frequent converstations with HIm, but He is busy and I understand if He can't work me into the schedule.

But if He did, I'd bring him some cookies just to thank Him for letting me, each and every day, witness His enduring and fathomless miracle.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at April 12, 2006 10:16 AM

Actually, Gerard, God doesn't talk with you more often because you'd take up all his time.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at April 12, 2006 10:30 AM

Ouch! Arrgh, that's gonna leave a mark.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at April 12, 2006 10:40 AM

OK, Van De Leun, your confession has convicted you...

Your guilty of misrepresentation. All the while I though you were merely a gifted writer, now I discover the truth of your secret identity:

You're really the Cookie Monster!!!

Great story and I'm certain a correspondingly great recipe. I'll have to convince someone who does not burn water when they try to boil it to make a batch soon...

Posted by: Another Old Navy Chief at April 12, 2006 10:56 AM

Oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips are always called Colorado cowboy cookies. I don't know why, but Maida Heatter said it is so, so it must be so.

Oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips vs raisins? Use chocolate-covered raisins for a really great variation.

Peanut butter cookies? I like them plain, but I also like four variations: with lots of coconut (my fave), with raisins, with milk chocolate chips, or with Spanish peanuts. Make a double batch and divide it into fourths; stir a different option into each part. Then, of course, you HAVE to eat four cookies, or eight cookies, at one sitting so you can have some of each kind.

Posted by: Pat at April 12, 2006 3:19 PM

Mrs. Vanderleun knowing how good oatmeal if for growing and even aging boys put it in her recipe.

Now all those studies show how a serving a day reduces the the BAD CHOLESTRAL.

How prescient of Mommy Vanderleun - the oatmeal balances all that cholestral in the good whole milk everyone drank years ago.

On the butter/Crisco comparison, from one known to pop whole pats of butter into my mouth when it's good and fresh and pale, Crisco is an all vegtable product. Think a lot of people equate Crisco with lard which was/is made with animal fats. Reason for the Ughhhhh! factor. But actually modern Crisco contains less than 50% the saturated fat of butter.

Can't wait to bake and include in my May care package for grandson. Just sent off pumpkin bread with side container of cream cheese icing at his urgent request - it had been snowing in NJ recently, he didn't think we could ship a turkey.

Gerard is not God. But he has certainly been lovingly touched by him.

Posted by: LARWYN at April 12, 2006 4:05 PM

Coincidence? Today this story of an elephant suffering a surfeit of cookies was carried by the AP: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/S/SICK_ELEPHANT?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2006-04-11-23-01-25

Posted by: askmom at April 12, 2006 6:18 PM

Maybe you needed to learn the recipe, but I never needed to! I still get the real thing! Guess where Mother is going to be on Easter Sunday-----That's right bro----right here at my place, for Easter dinner and ---you got it---- chocolate chip cookies! The REAL THING!!! Classic, original, and once again------ALL MINE.
Enjoy your Sunday!!!!!

Boy #2

Posted by: Brother Tom at April 12, 2006 8:11 PM

From that, my readers can see just what I had to endure! And still endure.

A real brother, a brotherly brother, would take my rightful share and FedEx it to Seattle...

But, noooooooo.......

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at April 12, 2006 9:27 PM

A real brother, a brotherly brother, would be hiring local talent to give you wedgies during important business meetings.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg at April 12, 2006 9:32 PM

I thought MY family was the only one like this.

Posted by: AskMom at April 12, 2006 9:33 PM

Ooooh good idea Alan. Hey Tom, I live in Seattle. Email me. Snicker.

Posted by: AskMom at April 12, 2006 9:36 PM

A simply wonderful essay, even though I think combining oatmeal and chocolate chips constitutes some kind of weird cookie miscenegation.

Thanks for writing this. I'm recommending it most highly to my vast handful of readers at Combs Spouts Off:

"Van der Leun on America, childhood, and cookies"

Posted by: Richard G. Combs at April 12, 2006 11:15 PM

Mmmmm. *My* favorite cookie recipe has a tendency to vary because I don't always want to go to the store, but in general it uses butter, flour, sugar (white and brown), rolled oats (not oatmeal; it has a different texture), vanilla, molasses, an egg, and dried fruit and chocolate chips. Last weekend it was cranberries, apricots, and semi-sweet & white chocolate chips.

There's only one thing that could have made them better, and it's something I discovered by accident. Such cookies are HEAVEN when eaten very warm, as on a hot July day. The only problem is that they fall apart as you eat them— so you have to eat them faster...

Posted by: B. Durbin at April 13, 2006 5:57 PM

"...endure Jimmy Carter for decades without demanding he be staked out naked on the sacrifice stone at the top of the Aztec's Pyramid of the Sun without sun screen,"

c'mon...I realize that this is a PG-13 site but you forgot the part about smearing his testicles with honey while he is staked next to the army ant nest.


Posted by: Barnabus at May 27, 2008 5:47 PM

It's a truism...the best chocolate-chip cookie in the world was baked by your mother.

It doesn't matter if it had oatmeal, or if it was straight Crisco, or half butter/half Crisco...it was the best cookie because it was baked by your mother, with the love and care that she put into it for her family.

Posted by: at May 27, 2008 6:02 PM

Hat tip to your mom and her cookies.

Gerard. I hope that you don't mind if I introduce Jean Shepherd to those in your audience who have never heard of him. I bring him up now because of the scene in A Christmas Story when he describes how the mother in the story made the best turkey ever. Jean Shepherd wrote and narrated that movie. In it the turkey eventually gets eaten by the neighbors Bloodhounds. He wrote several books and had some articles in Playboy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Shepherd

His writing almost compares to yours...

I had the fortune of listening to his stories almost every night growing up in NYC as he broadcast a show for WOR radio.

He, like you, could tell great stories!

Posted by: JD at May 27, 2008 7:13 PM

I couldn't resist - I had to try this recipe tonight.
Two thoughts: 1 - your Mother (blessings be upon her for all eternity) is a genius,
and 2 - thanks to the mixing technique, my hands are the softest they've been in months; it's better than a spa treatment.
Thanks, Gerard!

Posted by: Julie at May 27, 2008 9:54 PM

Excellent observation. Spa and cookies!

Posted by: vanderleun at May 28, 2008 8:09 AM

Ssssh...the butter vs. Crisco controversy is that you can do even better with leaf lard. But don't tell anyone. Or else just use it in pie crust. But as far as oatmeal in a chocolate chip cookie goes...I compromise by mixing in Raisinettes, instead of either raisins or chocolate chips.

Posted by: Jewel at May 29, 2008 2:26 AM

Gerard. Your recipe, if it calls for 3 inch diameter cookies to be placed on the cookie sheet before baking, will not yield four or five dozen. You might get 12 cookies, especially if you sneak an occasional spoonful of dough into your mouth before sanctifying them with the oven blessing. You might get almost 2 dozen, possibly 3 dozen with that sized recipe, so long as you keep your taste buds at bay, and form 1 inch cookies prior to baking, for I know where of I speak, being both a Mommy who bakes, using a variant of this recipe, and a High Priestess of Satan who bakes Boutique Cookies that cause men to sell their immortal souls for a sample.

Posted by: Jewel at May 29, 2008 2:46 AM

HERETIC!!!

Posted by: vanderleun at May 29, 2008 5:15 AM

Mmmmmmm. Tasty Heresy, too.

Posted by: Jewel at May 29, 2008 8:01 AM

My mother is 89 and believes firmly that chocolate-chip cookies should crunch.

Posted by: Bleepless at May 31, 2008 10:35 AM

The rule at my house: You cannot eat a cold cookie (well, no one has ever waited for them to get cold).

A very good read. Thanks for the entertainment.

Posted by: altered states at May 22, 2012 9:35 AM

Gad, I'm starving!

Posted by: Fausta at May 22, 2012 11:53 AM

What delightful writing. I look forward to reading this out loud to my children this afternoon, while they are snacking on my cookies.

Posted by: Katherine at May 22, 2012 2:15 PM

Oh, that was a fun trip down memory lane, Gerard:
For vous:

You know what I‘m doing right now?

I’m eating a sugar cookie. Just baked.

As my teeth touch the outside crust, it is crisp and buttery, and oh so sweet and light.

The crust yields, willingly, allowing my teeth to breach its wall and enter into the almost molten joy that eagerly anticipates my hungry lips and tongue.

It is like eating a white cloud, kissed by a lemon sun, crunching though a crystal ice-like shower of sugar on the top, and finding the soft and moist and lovely and warm center inside. And I’m drinking tea, a clear, hot, amber elixir, full of health and goodness.

I don’t add any sugar or jam to the tea. Or lemon.

The cookie has all of the sugar and lemon I need. The tea is just slightly bitter, but not the kind of remorseful bitterness that comes from a passing moment of engaging in wanton culinary ecstasy, no.

Just a slight bitterness that complements and balances the happy sweetness and fatness of the cookie, thus utilizing every taste bud on my tongue.

Yes, that’s what I’m doing, right now.

Posted by: Jewel at May 22, 2012 2:29 PM

Okay, Jewel, just quit it. Quit it right now! Or else...... spanky!

Posted by: vanderleun at May 22, 2012 4:03 PM

Sorry Vanderleun, but cookies are anathema to me and to real bakers. They are a lazy cooks squirt of some mud made of flour and stuff splorped onto a pan and baked. Little skill, zero imagination, null point null for tradition.

An evil, ugly and uncouth substitute for proper baked goods. What is it with you Americans that you'll rave about such crap as cookies and god-help-me 'Cinnabons' or the hellish 'muffin'?

The thousand varieties of blaetterteich in Germanic baking, from Viennese croissants to strudel, the glories of French pastries, the Danes and their buttercream fillings, Hungarian ... well, you take my point, you need to get out and travel more.

If you eat in Europe, do not on any account let their cooking convince you that they know anything at all about economics, democracy or culture.

Posted by: Fred Z at May 22, 2012 5:51 PM

Try with tablespoon vanilla, double walnuts.

Posted by: Gary Ogletree at May 23, 2012 4:48 PM

doesn't matter how you make it. It won't taste as good as it does in the Gorge.

Posted by: Teri at May 25, 2012 6:36 PM

Oh, you fiend. I've been resisting baking a batch of the holy cookies for the past couple of days, but all of the ingredients are lurking in my cupboard, just waiting.

Now that you've reminded that it's sacramental, I guess it would be a sin *not* to bake them...

Posted by: julie at October 22, 2013 6:33 AM

Baloney. Just goes to prove that you will love what you ate in childhood.

You lost me seriously at Crisco.

Posted by: pbird at October 22, 2013 7:28 AM

Ginger snap season, Gerard.

Posted by: Jewel at October 22, 2013 7:43 AM

I use a 1:1 ratio of butter (fie on margarine!) to Crisco in my chocolate cookie recipe. They turn out quite loverly.

Posted by: butch at October 23, 2013 6:17 AM

Black walnuts. A taste that really brings back some happy childhood memories of my grandmother's fudge. I tried to get my husband and children to like them, but they want nothing to do with them. Too bad. They don't know what they are missing. But cashews...they intrigue me. I will substitute, with apologies to your mom.

Posted by: Jewel at October 23, 2013 8:54 AM

Marvelous writing and a tempting recipe. Thank you!

Posted by: Tom at October 23, 2013 9:26 AM

I was laughing as I read the comments. I wondered if the thinner, crisper, crunchier, butter, crowd versus the softer, chewier, Crisco crowd equated to personality types and what sub group was the oatmeal, pecan, walnut crowd.

For me, if someone bakes or cooks, it's all good.

Posted by: Grace at October 23, 2013 8:05 PM

Cookies are a sign of the decline of the West.

Cookies are shit.

Cookies are what an amateur, incompetent unbaker churns out from a mix of hubris and laziness.

The world is full of fantastic patisserie, from Baklavah through Strudel and Danish, neither the crapola you poor Obama voting half wit Americans claim are strudel and Danish...Jesus H. Christ, words fail me.

Do not even mention doughnuts or muffins or I will be forced into violence.

I love the idea of America, I love Americans, I despise what you eat.

Posted by: Fred Z at October 24, 2013 10:10 PM

Actually, European cooking (from medieval times, and possibly as far back as ancient Rome) has included several different kinds of cookie in the art of baking. The Lebanese, the Germans, the Italians, the French all have their cookies. And yes, the Austrians and Hungarians and Poles, too, and the people of Eastern Europe, and the Chinese and Japanese....

When my great-great-grandmother immigrated here, she brought her springerle (anise cookies with designs that "spring up") recipe and the wooden molds to make the designs. When Pope Benedict XVI was still gloriously reigning (and before, when he was a cardinal, and probably this Christmas too), he got a huge care package of the various essential kinds of Christmas kuchen from the German nuns at a certain convent (including springerle, I'm happy to say). Do not mock the holiness of the cookie!

There's nothing wrong with liking complicated pastries; but there's nothing wrong with the simple ones, either. Fortunately, there are different foods for every taste.

Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at October 25, 2013 8:10 AM

St. Hildegarde of Bingen includes cookie recipes in her medical books, just as she includes recipes for beer as part of her wellness program and herbal medicines. Pretty tasty cookies if you like things like ginger or anise! :)

Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at October 25, 2013 8:23 AM

What a great piece of writing!

I'm a butter gal, but I'm going to try adding some Crisco the next time I make chocolate chip cookies.

Cookie omnivore here. I like 'em all.

I've never yet found a perfect recipe for peanut butter cookies. I find Alan's narrative dubious, given its lack of shortening of any kind--but could I be wrong? Could that be the secret I've been seeking?

Jewel, you're coming back soon to leave us your sugar cookie recipe, right? RIGHT??

I often crave my grandmother's molasses cookies. Haven't perfected those yet, either, but at least I have the recipe. I have all of her cookie recipes, mostly in her handwriting. That's about as Holy as it gets--a fondly-remembered cookie recipe of Gram's, in her own hand.

She made a wonderful refrigerator oatmeal cookie, tons of butter, roll it up and chill overnight, then slice and bake. Oh my. Oddly enough there is a commercial product that takes quite a bit like this (dare I say it). Effie's Oat Cakes. Really. They're quite good.

Gram's refrigerator oatmeal cookie says at the bottom in extra-large handwriting Must Use Butter For Best Flavor! Underlined about four times.

When I went off to college, I spent my last night in LA at my grandmother's house, because she lived near the friend I was driving to college with and we wanted to leave really early in the morning--we would be driving up the California coast to Olympia Washington and wanted to get as far as possible the first day. We packed my 1969 VW bug to the gills the night before. On the big morning my grandmother bestowed upon me a coffee can full of her molasses cookies.

It was good to have something Holy for the journey.

Thank you for reminding us who we are.

Posted by: Sarah Rolph at October 25, 2013 3:29 PM