Audre Lorde, in her excerpt “Spices” from her titled work Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, recreates the sense of child-like wonder of watching and helping her mother work in the kitchen through her now nostalgic, adult eyes. This is a retrospective activity we participate in over and over again throughout our mature lives, knowing that, as Lorde so indisputably put it, “Whatever came from home was bound to be special.”
Lorde’s focus in her memory of the processes her mother used while in the kitchen instead of simply looking at the food. I think that’s part of the reason why I connected so closely to her writing. The actions around the food make the memory.
A memory I often have is one of watching my mother bake peanut butter chocolate chip cookies in our kitchen, and then later on, when she was certain I wouldn’t burn myself on the stove (though I proved her wrong many times), taking over the household bakery.
It’s a sweet flashback, and one that speaks out to Lorde’s reminiscence to her and her mother’s time in the kitchen together. It’s a memory I go back to when I feel like I’ve lost myself in the mess of trying to become a fully functioning adult.
My memory always begins with the end of the first batch of cookies…
I believe there is something intensely satisfying in the searing pain of a cookie eaten when it isn’t quite cool.
But I’m not saying this to encourage those of you who are reading this to snatch a cookie off a pan directly after it’s been removed from your oven, but there is pleasure in the memory of my mother’s condescending voice when she told me that the cookies she’d just pulled out five minutes ago still weren’t cool. Despite her warning I’d pop one in my mouth with a grin.
It wasn’t really a burning sensation that would fill my mouth.
It was as if I’d let the summer sun enter and warm it to the point where there was water forming in my eye, but just for a few seconds.
The moment directly after that was what made it all worth it.
I’d squish the hot cookie to the roof of my mouth and warm chocolate spread like a salve over my stinging throat. Letting out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding in, the sweet tinge of chocolate on chocolate tickled my nostrils. This was a moment I could truly revel in, and even revel in now, because as I typed I let out a sweet sigh filled with the decadence of nostalgia.
As I got older, I found more joy in the creative process of the cookies, not just the cookies themselves. They were a family favorite, as well as the favorite of many neighbors and relatives, especially during the holidays. So it was almost like a never ending chain of cookie making and the occasional stealthy shove of a cookie into my cheek. Much like Lorde’s rhythm in grinding with the mortar, I found my rhythm in cookie prep after the third batch: crack, dump, stir, whisk, fold, grab, roll, place.
Grab, roll, place.
Grab, roll, place.
Mom would always come in to check on me while I was baking, and it was almost always during the time when I could least conspicuously hide the fact that there was a cookie in my mouth.
“How are we doing?” she’d ask.
Doing my best to either quickly swallow a hot cookie without choking or letting a couple of aforementioned tears roll down my cheeks, I’d mumble, “Good.”
I was almost always caught.
But with six dozen cookies on the line, who was really counting in the long run?
2 large eggs
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup butter or oleo
1 cup peanut butter
1 cake mix (yellow, chocolate, white)
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Electronic mixer (preferred) or whisk and bowl
Beat eggs, water, peanut butter, and butter with 1/2 of the cake mix until smooth.
Beat in remaining cake mix until smooth.
Fold in chocolate chips to mixture.
Drop by teaspoon on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.
Makes 6 dozen cookies.
By Katie Willem