I’m not a baker. I am not even much of a cookie eater. In short, I have an under-developed sweet-tooth. Still, the other day, when a friend of mine called me to ask whether I would bake a batch of cookies for a semi-private event, I said yes.
Of course, I needed a hint as to what to bring. I didn’t want to be the umptieth person delivering the umptieth three dozen of the same kind of baked goods. “Chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, or snickerdoodles,” my friend said. “You can always use a ready mix, too.” Now, I might not be a baker, but I have a home maker’s honor to defend. From scratch it would have to be, of course!
As I hung up, I suddenly had second thoughts. Not about the baking itself. About the kinds of cookies requested. Why? They are so American, that this German immigrant has once or twice tasted, but never made them. Ever. Peanut butter is something I prefer in savory dishes. Chocolate chip cookies are definitely not my kind, unless there is more than “just” chocolate to them. And snickerdoodles, though certainly delectable, still make me wonder about their name. Don’t they sound like something dangerously potent from Alice’s wonderland?! (Apparently though, the name derives from the German word “Schneckennudel”, but that coiled yeast pastry has nothing in common with its American cousin.)
Anyhow, I found myself discarding two kinds of cookies from my mind, deciding to give the cinnamon ones a try. To be on the safe side, I’d also make a batch of my peppermint chocolate chip cookies. Comes near enough the real deal, right? And just in case nobody would find my first try with American cookies good enough, I’d bring a batch of German cookies for compensation. At least, I know what they have to be like, since I grew up on such.
Vanillekipferl? Nusshoernchen? Kokosmakronen? Heidesand? Elisenlebkuchen? I had daymares about burnt cookies. Half-baked cookies. Cookies too crumbly. Cookies too sweet. Cookies too exotic. Finally – eureka! Alpenbrot it would be, that flavorful something slightly kindred to Magenbrot and gingerbread, inconspicuously brown, almost shapeless, but oh so flavorful. Lovingly glazed with a thin sugar coating while still hot. Stored away in a tin for a few days to gain more chewiness. I might not win any ribbon with my American cookies, but maybe my German ones would get me a smile or two.
Here now, I find myself baking three times three dozen cookies instead of only one batch of one dozen, with temperature rising to the 90s outside – (and quite near that inside the house). Though I am so not a baker. And … ah, you already know all of the above.
Integration can be a challenge to an immigrant from half a world away. And it may or may not be a piece of cake even in the case of a batch of 36 cookies.