Culture vulture

Treats from on high
My youngest cousin-in-law, nearly-9-year-old Emma, who lives in Moscow, Idaho, with her parents, Carolyn and Jim—aunt and uncle of the lovely I. Daphne St. Brie—recently sent us a beautiful decorative tin packed full of homemade cookies. Not just any cookies, mind you, but super-special, ultra-deluxe, secret-family-formula cookies baked using a recipe that Emma’s father and his sister, my mother-in-law Enid Allrap, came up with when they were themselves children of a mother indulgent and wise enough to let her kids devise their own cookie recipe.

The recipe may initially seem an unlikely hybridization of two major branches of the cookie family tree. The body of the cookie is a crispy, crunchy, ginger snap, dark with rich molasses and brown sugar, aromatic with its infusion of ginger. A satisfying and wholesome cookie in its own right. But to this basic recipe Jim and Enid and now Emma have chosen to add the key ingredients from another classic: semi-sweet chocolate chips and chunky broken walnut meats.

Oh, that’s just weird, something only a kid could enjoy, I can hear some of you muttering. But, speaking as a 52-year-old adult with mature sensibilities, refined tastes and a very discerning sweet tooth, it gives me great pleasure to inform some of you that you are—despite possessing the good taste and cultural perceptiveness to be reading this column—incorrect in your prejudicial assessment of this marvelous cookie.

Please indulge me whilst I elucidate. First of all, I have no doubt that the vast majority of us can agree that a properly made ginger snap is a joy to behold and an even greater joy to consume, especially when enhanced with a glass of milk. The crunch of the cookie body, the complex sweetness of molasses and brown sugar fused in a matrix of butter and flour, and the coup de grace, the almost mystical, herbal exoticism of the ginger, which infuses not just the taste buds but the olfactory senses with an aromatic bite conjuring visions of silken tented Oriental marketplaces, all combine to form a harmonious confectionary experience.

Now to the above pleasures add the luxurious, bitter-sweet crumbling-and-melting mouthfeel of a few baked chocolate chips. At first the mixture is pleasantly odd, but thorough chewing blends every flavor into a combination unequalled for subtle and complex shadings of deliciousness. Unequalled—that is, until you throw in just the right smattering of coarsely broken English walnut chunks, their earthy texture and gently bitter flavor adding yet another layer of complexity—then, my friends, you have a confection to rival any sweet treat ever invented by the human brain.

But, to regress and give the critics their due: You are correct about one thing—this cookie could only have been invented by a child.

Because only a child would be sufficiently adventurous and unfettered by culinary conventionality to conceive of such an unprecedented gastronomic invention.

So I raise my glass of milk on high, dunk my ginger- chocolate-chip-and-walnut snap into its silken depths and salute every cookie-loving kid and every parent who ever helped them make a cookie of their own invention for reminding us that … mmmmmmmm … life can be sweet.