It was the dead of the afternoon. I was resting my dogs on the ottoman while the kid played with his blocks on the floor. He hadn't eaten since noon, so I knew he was going to be hungry. I asked him what sounded good.
"How about some cheese?" I suggested.
"I don't like cheese."
I knew that was bullcrap.
"How about a hard-boiled egg? What about applesauce?"
He sighed heavily. "No thank you."
Maybe the kid wasn't hungry. I shrugged and picked up my book. He'd tell me when he wanted something. It wouldn't be long.
I was right.
"Mommy? Can we bake some cookies?"
I wasn't quite falling for the pitiful face routine just yet. Bake cookies? I just finished cleaning! Besides, do I even have the ingredients for that?
So I offered him some graham crackers. That didn't go over well. "But I want some homemade cookies! Raaaaarrr!" Or something like that. I couldn't blame the kid. Homemade cookies are pretty damn tasty. At least mine are.
"Alright kid. Let's do it." And we set off for the kitchen.
I had no idea yet what kind of cookies I was going to make. I knew I didn't have any chocolate chips or oats, so those varieties were out. I was down to one and a half sticks of butter when most of my recipes call for two. I was completely out of shortening. I had also used the bulk of my sugar baking a cake last weekend. Well, it seemed that cookies weren't gonna happen.
And then... I remembered the old Ace in the Hole of cookie recipes, at least if you like peanut butter.
"Hey kid, how's some peanut butter cookies sound?"
I set about gathering the ingredients for what are perhaps the best-tasting peanut butter cookies on the planet. It didn't take long:
That's right, kids. One cup of peanut butter. One cup of sugar. One egg. A splash of vanilla. That's it. No flour, no leavening, no butter/shortening. The lessons of the Depression era still come in handy.
The boy was dubious. His instincts in the kitchen are already beginning to take shape.
I mixed the dough lickety split and placed scoops of it on parchment-lined cookie sheets. I looked down at the kid. He was watching me work, but he wasn't terribly fascinated yet.
"Are they ready to go in the oven now?" he asked.
"Not yet, my man. They are still looking kind of naked."
"Naked?!" He guffawed as if it was the funniest thing I'd ever said. Four year olds are handy for nothing if not parental ego boosting.
The wheels of culinary improvisation were turning in my mind. I didn't have chocolate chips, but I remembered there was a block of semi-sweet chocolate resting at the top of the pantry, just begging for a use. I grabbed it and chopped come decent size chunks.
"See this here, kiddo? You wanna take this chocolate and put a piece into the center of each cookie."
With the dexterity of a child perhaps twice his age, he placed each chocolate chunk dead center into each piece of dough. Before long, the first batch was ready for the oven. Eight minutes at 350. I retreated back to my book, but not before I captured a glimpse of Elias admiring our handywork through the oven door.
The cookies took ten rather than 8 minutes to bake. The boy was still a tad unsure when they came out. "Are you sure these are gonna be good?" He's such a little doubter. I sometimes think cynicism is hereditary.
"Well sure, they don't LOOK like great shakes," I told him. "Trust me, though. You can't go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate." I pointed to myself: "These hips don't lie, boy."
He cracked up again. Damn I'm hilarious.
I had him sit down and I poured him a small glass of milk. It is utterly (or "udderly") necessary with these cookies.
The boy squealed with delight. He wanted cookies and in less than 3o minutes, he had a hot, freshly-baked one right in front of him. He took a bite, and was immediately engulfed in sweet, silent rapture. For perhaps one minute out of the entire day, he was absolutely quiet.