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Bake until the buzzer goes off: Thirty years of baking cookies

I just celebrated my birthday last month and realized that I can honestly say I have been making cookies for thirty years. I first started making cookies with my mom in the mid 1970’s when I was five or six years old. My first grade teachers put together a cookbook filled with student recipes ranging from, “scabetti” (spaghetti), to the popular, “how to make a bowl of cereal”. My recipe was for M&M Cookies, one of my favorites at the time.

The teacher instructed each child to draw a picture of the finished recipe. They then wrote down the recipe as each child recalled it from memory. Of course, nearly all the recipes omitted key steps and ingredients, but this is what truly gives the cookbook character. Logistical details are not noticed by children, and reading the recipes you see the world as children do. The final instructions for my cookie recipe ended with “bake until the buzzer goes off”. That is when you know the cookies are done baking, right? Time’s up.

Baking cookies during adolescence
By the time I was 11 or 12, my mom entrusted me to make cookies when she was away at work. My sister and mom would both frequently grab spoonfuls of dough from the bowl or unbaked cookie dough as it sat on a cookie sheet. I was convinced—rightly so—that taking some dough before all ingredients were assembled would adversely affect the quality and consistency of the finished cookies. My best defense was to wait for the two of them to leave the house before finally assembling ingredients.

With both mom and sister gone, I could safely bake the cookies without fear of attrition. After cooling the cookies on paper towels—really should have used cooling racks—I carefully put three cookies in a sandwich bag and line them neatly on the counter. I would then do my best to clean the kitchen up as it was before, only the smell of the cookies giving away my covert operation. My mom, in order to not destroy her diet, would frequently share the cookies with her friends and coworkers. For one or two years my Mom’s best friend actually hired me to make several batches of cookies for her during the holidays.

The college years
Attending college in the early 90’s I would frequently make cookies for eating and sharing with housemates or classmates at school study groups. Many female students—incredulous that a guy could (or would?) bake cookies—demanded recipe details as evidence that I had actually baked the cookies myself. Even today I have to convince some coworkers who incorrectly assume that my wife makes the cookies I frequently bring in to share.

Cookies in the workplace
When I started working for Backroads, I would bake cookies and bring them along as a nice treat for guests to pack before cycling. The home-made cookies were a welcome substitute for the half dozen store-bought cookies we typically stocked. A guest from Tennessee ate one of my cookies and then told me in a nice southern drawl, “Damn, Brian, someday you gonna make someone a fine wife!” I actually met my wife while working at Backroads. A fellow trip leader, she was well known for her kitchen sink cookies.

Passing the torch
So after 30 years I am now making cookies with my two kids, ages 5 and 7. When they see me get my KitchenAid mixer out to make cookies, they run down the hallway to fetch the stool and stepladder so they can ‘help’ daddy. With so much help, it takes nearly twice as long, but the kids and I enjoy making cookies together, particularly on Saturdays when Mom is at work.

At a recent parent-teacher conference, the teacher read a sample from my son’s writing assignments. “My dad likes to bake cookies” she read, pausing to look up at us and ask, “Really? Is that true?” Yes, it’s true.