On a melancholy cookie roll

I’m on a cookie-roll this week. Maybe it’s been the dark, wet, dreary days we’ve been having that have sent me into the kitchen to turn on the oven. Or, maybe it’s my melancholy mood. Yes, I think that’s the real reason I’ve been baking cookies.

On Sunday we went to the first community band concert of the summer. As I sat in my lawn chair enjoying the music and the pleasant evening, the band started playing a song my mom used to love to sing. She was blessed with a beautiful voice. I remember feeling a little embarrassed in church on Sundays because she would be belting out the sacred songs much louder than any other mom. She ironed in front of the television as she sang along with Mitch Miller and his band every week. She never missed the Lawrence Welk Show. My mom could have been one of the singers on that show.

Yes, my mom could sing. She had a beautiful voice. And there, sitting in a small park on a Minnesota summer evening across from Lake Bemidji listening to the community band, I realized I couldn’t remember what my mom’s voice sounded like. It was alarming. It rattled me to my core. My eyes welled up with tears. I was devastated. The unsettling realization made me very lonesome for my mom, who died 17 years ago.

As soon as I got home from the concert, I started mixing up cookie dough. Memories of being in the kitchen with my mom as we cooked and baked together offered comfort as I measured and chopped and stirred and formed logs of slice-and-bake cookie dough — three different kinds.

One batch was a cookie I’d been planning to try for several years. Nibby Pecan Cookies from Alice Medrich‘s book, “Bittersweet: recipes and tales from a life in chocolate,” had been marked with a red sticky note for ages.

Nibby refers to the cocoa nibs in the cookie dough. Nibs are bits of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cacao bean. They’re very crunchy, yet begin to melt in the mouth as teeth crunch into them. The taste is reminiscent of chopped coffee beans, but sweeter, with a subtle chocolate flavor. I discovered cocoa nibs when I was in San Francisco and made cocoa nib ice cream at Tante Marie’s Cooking School using Medrich’s recipe. That creamy ice cream has become a family favorite. Cocoa nibs have become easier to find in well-stocked supermarkets, gourmet food shops and kitchenware stores. I buy them directly from Scharffen Berger.

Click here to go right to Medrich’s recipe for Nibby Pecan Cookies.

On Monday, as I sliced and baked, I sang. And then, I felt better.


6 thoughts on “On a melancholy cookie roll

  1. I’ve been having similar thoughts about my father lately. He passed 16 years ago. I’ve been baking while watching old movies that we used to watch together. I’m trying to perfect a Salted Caramel cookie recipe. I am confident he never had heard of Salted Caramel, but he would have loved it.

  2. I forgot to add: My dad was Ken Swerdlow. He was director of Housing at BSU from 1976 to 1983 or so.

    • It’s interesting, isn’t it, Wendy? Cookie ingredients may change as they get a bit more gourmet, but cookie-baking-with-loved-ones memories never change — as therapeutic as a visit to a spa.

    • Maya, if you are in the Bemidji area, I believe Harmony Natural Food Co-op usually carries cacao nibs. But, I’m not sure where you are.

  3. Pingback: Challah and Recipe Roundup | The Heavy Table - Minneapolis-St. Paul and Upper Midwest Food Magazine and Blog

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