My Ticket to Anywhere
When I was young enough to require a footstool to reach the kitchen counter, I flanked my mother’s side when she was in the kitchen. As a child rife with imagination, the kitchen instantly transformed a place of magic: the pots became cauldrons and the cookbooks became spell books through which my mother and I would cook recipes that enchanted those who encountered our food. And once our brew was complete, the masses would flock to us, hungrily devouring every last morsel. And through our toil and trouble, our house became fragrant of the perfume of a simmering roast or the savory aroma or cornbread, making a hungry little cook salivate. But I think the most captivating smell to come from the kitchen was the deliciously sweet essence of my mother’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
To this day, I get much too excited when I know there will soon be oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in my possession. Fresh from the oven, these sweet confections are gooey and rich, likely to collapse if you try to handle it too much. However, these cookies actually taster better if they are left to age, as one can appreciate the subtle sweetness of the brown sugar or the rich decadence of the butter undertones. If enjoyed slowly and thoughtfully, these cookies become like a fine wine, growing better with age.
To me, these cookies encompass the comfort of my mother’s love, which she finely displays through her thoughtfulness. These morsels were not served on a regular basis; they were saved for special occasions. These cookies were staples after we had completed a big accomplishment, such as all A’s on a report card. With puppy dog eyes, my siblings and I would pitifully ask Mom to make the cookies, as we knew that she would eventually oblige. But on the best of days, I would walk in the door from a long day of school, and as soon as I stepped in the house, I was greeted with that familiar aroma and a smile would envelop my face. On those days, I never doubted if my mother loved me; clearly she did if she just decided on a whim to make me cookies.
My mother firmly believed that one’s talent must not be buried, but must be shared with the world. She didn’t consider herself to be a baker of sorts, but she did consider herself an excellent baker of cookies. And anything done well should be done for others. Thus, these cookies became a staple to every major function of our social circle. Mom would take them to new mothers, grieving widows, and even fashioned a cookie-themed bridal shower gift starring the oatmeal chocolate chip favorites. At every stage of life, my mother’s cookies made an appearance, engulfing the eaters in warm comfort as they were transported to their own thoughts of home, family, and contentment.
Even though my mother doesn’t consider herself a good cook, her efforts of the kitchen have kindled my own desire to care for others through my culinary passion. Watching my mother glide into the kitchen and pull out her favorite mixing bowl signaled that she was thinking of someone—and not only that, but she was determined to make sure that the recipients of these cookies knew that they were worth a splurge. Mom brought people together through her great equalizer—food. And that’s what I want to do with my culinary talent. When I cook, I can see the roots of my past when I bake these cookies, or make my Granny’s famous noodles. Even if I’m cooking in my Nashville apartment, when I taste the delicate noodles rolling around in their broth on the stove, I can actually be sitting in my grandmother’s house, talking and laughing over the last wisecrack my grandfather made. When I try new recipes full of exotic flair and fresh ingredients, I am reminded of who I am today—someone blending the old with the new, trying to find her place in the world. And when I look for new recipes to try, I can see the kind of woman I want to be and what I plan to do with my time; there are so many possibilities. Maybe I will be a health nut and perfect my egg white omelet. Perhaps I will be cooking vegetable soup for a soup kitchen, trying to economically place as much nutrition into the pot with as much love as I can possibly add. When I try to find the best hot chocolate recipe I can around the holidays, I can’t help but imagine becoming a mother myself…and hoping that my kids will stroke my ego and brag about their mom’s hot chocolate, which is undoubtedly the best in the world. To me, food is my medium of confluence, my threads that tie together my past, present, and future. When I cook, I can be transported to anywhere in the world—my grandmother’s house, my mother’s kitchen, a food party with my fellow English majors, any country around the world, and even into my imaginary memories that I dream will happen in the future. Food is the ticket to my journey to anywhere and everywhere.
My mom’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are, needless to say, pretty special to me. As I repeat the same steps in the recipe as my mother once did, I am reminded of her resolve to make us feel special. When I bite into a cookie, I remember that caring for someone does not have to be an extravagant show, but that sometimes the best way to convey love is to cream butter and sugar, wait ten minutes, then serve at once.