Baking Like My Mom

Mom turned off the mixer and released the latch to lift the top up and remove the mixer from the bowl. She twisted the bowl, freeing it from the Kitchenaid.

She stuck a spatula in the bowl and scraped down the sides. Detaching the mixing head, she used her fingers to take the last bit of dough off it. She dropped what she could into the bowl, then turned to the sink to rinse it off. As she did, she licked her fingers.

Turning to me, she made some hmms, tilting her head slightly from shoulder to shoulder. She shrugged, and her eyebrows lifted in a casual approval of the dough. It was grandma’s recipe, and they were my favorite cookies.

She brought me the bowl of dough, and my eyes examined the shiny brown lump greedily. Mom slid me a pair of cookies sheets.

I scooped out some dough with a spoon and rolled it in my hands, resisting the temptation to pop it in my mouth. I placed a dozen balls on each sheet, then mom handed me a small bowl of sugar and a crystal Princess coffee mug, the cup perched on a small stem. The base had an indentation on the bottom that looked like a flower or a sun. I sprinkled on some sugar and gently pressed the bottom of the glass onto the balls to flatten them.

I reached a ball that was bigger than the rest, only just slightly. I smiled and broke a small piece off the ball, squeezing the buttery dough between my fingers. I tossed the piece onto my tongue and marveled at the deep richness of molasses and butter.

When I was older, I tried to make chocolate chip cookies without a Kitchenaid stand mixer. It seemed so romantic to think of standing in my kitchen, apron on, with a big bowl of cookie dough perched precariously on my hip, and I’d be working the dough with a wooden spoon – all without dropping a single bead of sweat.

I invited my boyfriend’s younger sister, around 9 at the time, over to make cookies. She’d never made cookies with her own mother, who spent all her time getting drunk on the couch and falling asleep with a cigarette hanging from her lip. I, on the other hand, had grown up with a mother who always let me bake with her.

The girl helped me scoop out all the ingredients with my new plastic measuring spoons, the first set I’d ever owned. Then, we got to stirring. I don’t know how one person could manage to stir an entire bath of cookie dough all by themselves. What had seemed romantic was now revealing the fact that I was just not brought up with cookie-mixing muscles. Mom and I had always had the Kitchenaid mixer for as long as I could remember. My grandmother had one before her. If mom had it, it had to mean that the Kitchenaid was the best, and I wanted the best.

We baked the cookies, laying them out in uneven balls on the shiny new cookie sheets.

As soon as I could, I was at Target admiring all the colors the Kitchenaid mixer came in. I didn’t admire the price. I thought of my credit card in my purse. I needed it, right? I loved to bake all the time, and the thought of doing it differently than I always had didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t want a hand-mixer or a spoon. I wanted what my mom had.

So, determined to have the best, I swiped my credit card for an amount equal to what I made in a week. I really wanted to bake more cookies.

I settled in at home with my new mixer, the most adult think I owned in my first apartment I didn’t have to share with roommates. I pulled out the pink Better Homes and Gardens three-ring binder cookbook, skipping all the recipes for real food and going right to the sweets. My mom had given me the cookbook, so it had to be the best.

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