Cookies and the unbearable lightness of strangers.

May 30, 2011

I’m secretly a little afraid of most people.  There have been some unkind moments during my history that have given me pause in believing everyone was my friend.

Playground squabbles and mean words from ill raised 6 year old children have left a bruise under the surface of my hard earned thick skin. Cookies always lessened the blow.

One of my first memories was a gentle beat down from a group of neighborhood kids that felt I was not quite white enough for them as they had given into the notion that white paint on my face would help.  It was an excruciating walk home.  My father was home. He was not amused nor did he indulge my desire to run inside and hide under my pillow.

He insisted I not flee and sat me out on the front steps to face my fears, showing the kids they could not beat my spirit. It was a long afternoon for a five year old. I believe with all my heart that my mother gave me cookies later that evening but I don’t really remember.  The numbness from the asphalt staircase is what lingers.

For much of my life, I have felt like an outsider.  At times, I stand off in the background for fear of embarrassing myself by seeming too eager to engage.

I am often misunderstood.  I like to be cocooned.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

In my experience, food is a common comfort zone for those of us that feel inadequate at times in the big, bad world.  I never feel “less than” in a kitchen.  Food never disappoints unless it is mistreated by the hands of the cook.  A kitchen requires nothing more than a few ingredients and the desire to nourish.

I feel at peace when I am cooking up weeknight dinner for family or preparing a feast for my circle of friends.  The kitchen makes me feel human, comfortable, and worthy.

It is no secret that cookies can make the worst of days seem bearable.  Joy the Baker goes as far to say “no matter what the question, the answer is always cookies. always.” I believe her and she was once a stranger.

I have been meeting my fair share of people lately.  Life and work have me in some very stranger laden situations and it is forcing me to trust in humanity and let my guard down when it comes to social endeavors.  As I expand my Rolodex and encounter new faces, I am reminded of how simple comforts can bond people together.  From two to ninety-two, cookies are a universal language all to themselves.  Baking, it seems, is the great social equalizer.

It has been a lifelong rule to never turn down homemade cookies.  I like the idea that someone took ingredients from their kitchen, warmed their hearts/ovens and baked up sweet goodness to share.

And although the idea of my vulnerabilities being exposed in the presence of strangers is somewhat unbearable, I’m not giving up hope.  Some of my closest friends were once strangers.

What follows is my most simple cookie recipe.  It is NOT a hand me down recipe that has traveled through my family for years. It is a pantry creation made one day in a state of anxiety when there was very little in the kitchen to work with for sweets.

I share it with you in hopes that one day we will not be strangers.

Coping Shortbread (small batch)

1/2 cup unsalted organic butter

1/2 cup natural sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt 

With a mixer, beat the butter until smooth and light.
Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add vanilla extract.
Mix flour and salt on low until combined.
Batter will start to form into a ball.
Press each ball down flat onto the bottom of 8 or 9" cake pans.
For easy removal, line the pans with parchment circles.

Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes. Remove from pan.
While still warm, cut into wedges like a pie.





{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Esther July 26, 2011 at 11:16 AM

I really love your writing! And I can relate to being totally awkward with strangers. I can also relate to cookies solving most problems.
Heartwarming post, and those cookies look awesome. I’ve been wanting to make a good butter cookie!


admin August 2, 2011 at 1:23 PM

Thank you, Esther! I am smitten with all the goodies on your blog and a little jealous that you have an actual espresso maker. I look forward to following your culinary journey!


Lana August 3, 2011 at 10:09 AM

Reading your new blog I feel at home:) I enjoy your writing and can relate to your stories. Looking forward to getting to know you better through your words. And I am so glad that we are not strangers.


Melissa August 3, 2011 at 4:29 PM

Lana, Anyone that carries her own wine could never be a stranger!


Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane August 3, 2011 at 3:43 PM

It seems you have definitely hit your sweet spot (with this post, these cookies and this new forum!). I, too, had many of those playground squabbles and was often the object of attack. I don’t think those scars ever completely go away but, you’re right, once you open up a little more than your comfort zone typically allows, amazing things can happen. Good luck with this new adventure, M!


Melissa August 3, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Is it odd that knowing someone as fabulous as yourself was picked on as a kid makes me feel better? I mean, maybe that is the requirement for fabulous.


Andrew @ Eating Rules August 3, 2011 at 7:31 PM

I never turn down homemade cookies, either.

I’m so glad you weren’t a little afraid of me when we first met. Scars do heal, people and society change, and it gets better. We’re both testimony to that!


Melissa August 4, 2011 at 3:04 PM

“you make me feel mighhhhttttttyyyyy real”


Diane {Created by Diane} August 8, 2011 at 9:47 AM

I agree cookies make it all ok, and shortbread are the best. Great recipe Can’t wait to try it.


Melissa August 8, 2011 at 11:04 AM

Diane, That means a lot coming from the sugar cookie queen = )


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