Sunday, February 27, 2022
I decided something today.
I really dislike baking, especially cookies, especially chocolate chip cookies. Occasionally I like the outcome of baking, though that depends on how much of what I have baked ends up on the bottom of the oven or on the floor.
The process, though, is very unfulfilling. It’s much too precise and unforgiving for my whirlwind nature. If you mess up and put the wrong amount of flour in your bread, you’re just not going to get bread with dinner. But if you forget the tomatoes or oversalt the potatoes, you can figure out something to compensate.
Anyway, baking is off the list.
I baked today.
As part of the Tiff’s Treats book launch team, I am reading the actual book, which also has recipes in it. They are very careful about telling you that the recipes aren’t meant to be the same as the cookies they bake, but are meant to approximate what they bake, scaled for a home cook.
I was pretty excited to try their chocolate chip cookie recipe, especially since their origin story is in a college apartment baking in a regular old kitchen oven. If anyone understands how to bake cookies in less than ideal conditions, it’s them, right?
So I baked cookies today.
I was smart enough to ignore the part where it says to put the cookies on parchment.
I did everything super carefully, measured carefully, stirred carefully, scooped carefully.
Here is another reason I hate baking. Everyone always tells you how PRECISE it is, how it’s science, how you have to measure carefully. And then they tell you to scoop flour into a cup, as if you couldn’t get wildly different amounts of flour into a cup depending on how you scoop it. I really only trust recipes that give me measurements in grams because then you know with certainty that you are getting the precise amount.
For a craft that is so “precise” people sure are cavalier about giving you imprecise measurements.
I was as precise as I could be with “a cup” and baked the first batch.
They came out like a layer of tissue paper with chocolate blobs that stuck to the pan and required such a force to remove them that they ended up more like crumpled tissue paper with chocolate blobs.
At least they were not in the bottom of the oven.
I decided that the batter was too soft and should be chilled even though the recipe did not tell me to chill it. I chilled it for maybe ten minutes, and baked the second batch.
The third batch went into the refrigerator for a half an hour before going into the oven. Then I sprayed an inordinate amount of canola oil spray onto the pan and baked the final batch.
They stuck marginally less, but that’s about it.
I now have three dozen pieces of crumlped tissue paper with chocolate blobs.
The good news is that they taste good. But I’m still never making them again.
There is a reason that I pay to have cookies delivered to my door, and this is it.
I don’t know how people bake things that come out like food, tasty food, pretty food. But I do appreciate it.
I appreciate the fact that I can decide, at 3pm on a Monday, say, that I want hot peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and in a half an hour, rain or shine, I can call someone who knows how to bake them, and they will appear on my doorstep without me having to wash a single pan.
That is worth something.
It’s worth a word, and the word is appreciate.
The word appreciate is not appreciated enough. We are too busy being grateful, or maybe not being so grateful, to think about all the things there are to appreciate.
But it’s a very useful word. It means you recognize something’s (or even someone’s) worth. A give-credit-where-credit-is-due kind of thing. It’s not as melodramatic as grateful, but not as dismissive as noticing.
I appreciate things often. I appreciate, for instance, the jughandle.
A few years ago, when I was living in New Jersey, I would have told you that the jughandle was the stupidest thing invented.
When Ralph and I got married, and we moved to New Jersey, I cried every time I had to take a jughandle.
For the uninitiated, a jughandle is New Jersey’s way of making a left turn. I assume they exist outside of New Jersey but that is quite literally the only place I have ever seen them. Instead of making a left turn, you make a right turn, then swing around in either a U or a complete O, and sometimes even a figure 8, cross over the street, THEN make a left.
It can be a pain when all you want to do is make a left turn but the next jughandle is four traffic lights up, or you have to wait for three traffic lights to turn green on every turn.
But after three years of living in middle Tennessee, I yearn for a good jughandle. It wasn’t until I saw how people drive here that I could appreciate that particular quirk of left turns.
Traffic circles, they can die.
But jughandles… oh, how I miss thee!
Here is how you make a left turn in middle Tennessee: inch out very slowly as you look across four lanes of traffic to see if any is barreling down on you. See an opening and jump across two lanes into the middle of the road. Stop short so you don’t smash head first into traffic coming in the opposite direction, Wait in the middle of the road as people turn around you and across you, until there is enough space to jump into the next lane. Send up a prayer of gratitude that you did not die.
I appreciate jughandles so much.
Here is what else I appreciate: sitting on the couch. Really, there isn’t much better than being able to sit on the couch all weekend and do nothing at all. Nothing, where nothing means… read, perhaps write, play a few games, talk on the phone.
I appreciate the absurd privilege that comes with being able to shop at Whole Foods.
I went grocery shopping today.
We could probably survive for several months on the food in our freezer and pantry but I want fresh fruits and vegetables, because I like them and because I want to be healthy. Do you have any idea what a privilege it is to be healthy? Holy cow.
I hate the produce at regular supermarkets, and I was too lazy to go get spinach at the Farmers Market this weekend, and besides, there are some things you just can’t get at the Farmers Market, like avocados, and grapefruit, and lemons.
So I decided to take a trip to Whole Foods.
Their produce is great, but… holy cow. Eight bucks a pound for grapes. Four bucks for a single grapefruit. Neither of which I purchased. I have limits. But everything else?
You read about “the obesity epidemic”, but do you ever read about the cost of potato chips vs grapes?
Another soapbox for another day.
Today I absolutely appreciated the fact that I could buy pretty much whatever I wanted regardless of the absurdity of the cost.
I appreciated the fact then when I got back from shopping, I could text Ralph and say “open the door!”
I didn’t need him to come help me carry groceries, because you can spend a hundred bucks without blinking and still be able to carry whatever you bought up three flights of stairs without breaking a sweat.
But I didn’t have to put anything down to unlock the door and get inside. Ralph will jump up and make my life easier whenever he can.
I appreciate Ralph.
It sounds like a funny thing to say, but more often than not, we say “I appreciate you” instead of simply “I love you.”
Love is a complicated feeling, to various degrees a feeling of desire, affection, interest, satisfaction, attachment, adoration.
You can love people who don’t deserve it, who don’t do anything to warrant loving them. You can love people for no justifiable reason at all. Love is not contingent on anything. It is, in its perfect form, “unconditional.”
And that’s wonderful.
But you can’t appreciate someone for no reason at all.
I want to be loved, but sometimes I’d rather be appreciated. For trying, again, to make the chocolate chip cookies. For doing the grocery shopping. For keeping the floor swept or for thinking of getting breakfast burritos on a day when breakfast burritos were really needed.
I appreciate a lot of things about Ralph. I appreciate that he opens the door for me whenever I come home. That when my computer acts like a pain, he methodically and patiently figures out why. That he reminds me to get on the Peloton because if left to my own devices, I would be lazy and pretend it didn’t exist.
I appreciate him for knowing when I need a hug vs a kick in the butt. And for telling me what I need to hear, not just what I want to hear.
I appreciate him for his support as much as for his willingness to eat whatever chocolate chip cookies come out of the oven.
I think it’s necessary to love someone unconditionally, but I also think it’s necessary to appreciate someone conditionally.
To let someone know that their actions were noticed, and found important.
Whenever we go to the Cork & Cow, we are met with exceptional people who provide exceptional service. I tip well, because I appreciate that.
And every time we say goodnight to our favorite bartender, he always leaves us with with same words.
“I appreciate you.”
Not “Thank you.”
“I appreciate you.”
It’s a world of difference. Today I want to acknowledge all the things I appreciate, and some I should but don’t acknowledge as much as they deserve. It would take forever to recognize them all, but just knowing that they exist is something.
Here’s to appreciating lazy Sundays and help when you need it. Nice smelling candles and tasty, if crumpled, cookies. Sunny days, comfy couches, and a lot more. And here’s to appreciating a little time to reflect on it all.
Photo: one of my favorite candles next to a batch of today’s not as favorite, but appreciated, cookies.