Today I write about my beginning. As an introduction to my website and in the hopes that this blog will peak your interest, I will tell you how I discovered baking. Spoiler Alert! It starts with a cookie.
It’s challenging to say that life was hard when you’ve just begun to write an entire blog post about cookies… Chocolate Chip Cookies, to be precise. Writing about how easy my life was however, would be even more dishonest.
I grew up in quite the unconventional household. My family was one of many to live in an intentional community located in Jackson, Mississippi. Meaning, my family along with five others all lived under one roof… yes, on purpose. Once a week, the adults would have meetings to discuss budgets, finances, disagreements, as adults do, to the everlasting boredom of their children. There were around nine children, including my older brother, younger sister and myself. For a time, there was a young lady by the name of Anne Berry that lived with us. She used to babysit the children while the adults had their meetings. Barely tall enough to see over the counter, I would watch and help Anne make chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen. She is the first person that I can remember baking with. So, it is thanks to her that I began my foray into the baking world, thus beginning the journey of my chocolate chip cookie.
Not long after that new beginning, however, there was a sudden ending. My father died. My mother, having migrated south two decades earlier, decided it was a good idea to take us “home”, north, to Pennsylvania. So, it was goodbye community, goodbye Ann Berry, and hello to invasive stares and cow manure. Thanks mom.
We arrived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that summer, and while my mom was looking for a house for our family, we moved in with her sister Esther. This was one of the best summers of my life. My Aunt Esther has the type of personality that makes you feel at home no matter where or who you are, and to be sure, Lancaster was not my home. Her house was full of things I hadn’t ever experienced before in a home: antiques, little candies… hell, she had horses and a pool. She also had a cookie jar. This was my first experience with such a thing. I had heard songs about them and even seen pictures of them in books, but never had I seen a jar devoted just to cookies. And not store bought cookies, she was Mennonite for God’s sake, (basically if the Amish are a 10 and Universalists are a 1, Mennonites are a solid 7.5, and 9 on Sundays). I’m talking homemade, flour and baking soda, cookies, usually of the chocolate chip variety. They were delicious.
So, that summer, in Amish country Pennsylvania, in Aunt Esther’s kitchen, I had my second introduction into a different chocolate chip cookie. Yes, quite different from the ones I made with Ann, but they were very, very tasty. It was also in Aunt Esther’s kitchen, that I first discovered the different dialects of food. Both the chocolate chip cookies I made with Anne in Mississippi and Aunt Esther in Pennsylvania were good, but they were prepared a little differently. My journey continued.
High school; that terrible age when you’re trying so hard to be something, but you’re so devastatingly not and you fail dismally. I sort of flew under the radar in high school. There is nothing that stands out dramatically in my first couple years. I mean, except for the overwhelming feeling of not belonging there, and being reminded of that everyday when I walked to halls and saw so few people who looked like me. While I admit I have a flair for the dramatic, it was not easy. I did have friends in high school whom I liked, but I just knew that Lancaster, Pennsylvania was not going to be the place I lived forever, it still wasn’t home. However, I digress. In high school I was in the marching band. **Insert feeble attempt to make marching band seem less lame** Alas… I was a nerd. But in all reality, this marching band wasn’t like the bands on TV. We weren’t horribly picked on or anything like that. We just enjoyed playing music together. That’s all. And we were really good, so that helped. We performed at the football games every Friday. And every Friday, I would bring chocolate chip cookies. Without fail, every week, they were everyone’s favorite. By now, I had sort of developed my own recipe. I still used some of the ingredients and combinations that Ann and Aunt Esther taught me, but now it was something a little different. I can remember coming home after school and immediately going into the kitchen to make the cookies. Sometimes they were still warm when I handed them out during the game.
Having just admitted to being in the marching band on a public forum, I feel no shame in stating that chocolate chip cookies have influenced my life in a very real way. I won’t call my own chocolate chip recipe a friend, for fear that you’ll close my blog, roll your eyes, and never visit this webpage again. But, I’d regret not emphasizing the mark these cookies have made on my life; shaping some of my first memories in community, helping me grieve the loss of my father by being the perfect distraction in Aunt Esther’s kitchen, and then evolving into a talent recognized by my peers in high school. So yes, life was hard, and continued to get harder. But let’s be real…any situation can be made a little better, if you only add a cookie.