Seven basic ingredients – that’s all I need to make chocolate chip cookies. In and of themselves, a legacy they do not make. Even the finished product is just a cookie, a sweet treat at the end of a meal or savored warm from the oven with a cold glass of milk. It’s gone, eaten within minutes, and the entire batch is gone within a day or two (if they last that long). So, how can a cookie be a legacy?
I’ve been baking them for over 40 years (wow, not sure I wanted to reveal that). Hundreds, if not thousands, of those same, seven ingredients, over and over. I memorized the recipe years ago. Still, not a legacy on their own, but the role they’ve played and the lives they’ve touched certainly warrants the title. Here’s how I see it.
Where did it start? My mother or one of my older sisters made them – that’s where I got my first taste. They were a treat to share with a friend, sitting on the shore, wrapped in our beach towels after we’d been in the lake most of the day.
When I was old enough to handle the mixer and manage the oven, I started making them. Burned and tossed my share until I got the oven temperature, timing, and rack positioning figured out. My family enjoyed them, I packed them in my school lunches (yes, I brown-bagged it), and I made a double-batch to take to the cabin on weekends so I wouldn’t have to be stuck indoors mixing, baking, and cleaning up when I’d rather be swimming, water skiing, or hiking in the woods. I shared them with our “cabin friends” and neighbors who stopped over. By Sunday afternoon, the cookie container was empty.
Time passed, I married, and had two precious children. Single batches replaced double, but the seven ingredients remained the same. I made them for pre-school snack time, when company came to visit, and the three of us ate them jacketed in the autumn sun, sheltered on the sunny side of the house – a last outdoor picnic before winter arrived.
My children entered grade school and brought their friends to our home after school to work on homework projects, play video games, or watch TV. More cookies at the ready. Weekends were a revolving door of kids coming and going, leaving with cookies in hand. The clunk of the lid on the stoneware cookie jar assured me they were still popular and allowed me to monitor any late night snack-sneaking.
Double-batches returned for the high school years. Word got out that I made homemade cookies, and I raced home from work to get them baked before the Friday night crowd swooped in on their way to the football game. Sometimes they never made it into the cookie jar.
Weekend volleyball/basketball tournaments probably warranted a triple-batch, but I drew the line at a double. Discouraged late-comers were forced to eat the store-bought cookies their mothers packed. Some declined altogether, shaking their heads and pointing at me while their mothers smiled and then glared.
My children are grown, living on their own, and enjoying their adult lives. I bought them each a stand mixer like mine and they have the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies they grew up with. Their friends still talk about Friday night cookie raids, tournament weekends, and how they watched for us to arrive so they wouldn’t miss out on a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie (or two).
I spent a week at my daughter and son-in-law’s, house/pet sitting while they took a much-needed break. Wednesday afternoon rolled around, and I decided it was a good time to make a batch. Of course, my daughter had everything I needed on hand.
As the mixer whirred, I wondered what number this batch must be, but it really doesn’t matter. A cookie is just a cookie, right? But is it really? Is it that simple? Making cookies for others is an act of love, a welcoming gesture, and a means to share. I learned, then taught my children and their friends, the quiet, unassuming lessons every time they surrounded me and my cookie container. They learned about thinking of others before themselves, they learned about generosity and friendship, and they remembered to say ‘thank you.’
I made a single batch on Wednesday, and I’m saving some for my weary travelers.