Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Theory of Cookies and Maybe Other Things, Too

Thankfully I had to run errands Saturday morning, or Valentine’s Day would have snuck up on me. Again. Yes, I knew it was sometime this month, and I reminded myself over and over that it would be good to prepare ahead of time. And actually, I am way ahead of where I've been other years. But I secretly suspect that all the good moms have been planning Valentine’s Day for at least a month and that by now all the cards are prepared, all the treats gathered together, all the surprises safely tucked away in anticipation of The Day.

I can imagine all sorts of extravagant ways to celebrate, but what I can provide this year is cookies. Along with part of a Monday afternoon to decorate them with my kids. And, since I’ve learned to take the same attitude towards frosting and sprinkles that I have towards art supplies, the cookies ended up being their own kind of extravagance.

Which brings me to what could easily be a family motto: A cookie is merely a vehicle for the frosting.

I find myself wanting to rethink that long-held belief. There is truth in it, but it's missing something important.

Because there is really no reason in the world for a cookie not to taste good. You can go sweet and rich (oh please do) or light and subtle, or even crunchy-healthy, and all will be well. But even if you are going to drown a cookie in frosting, even if its primary purpose is to look pretty (and I would argue that that is never the primary purpose), it must be able to stand on its own in terms of taste. There is no reason for a cookie to do otherwise.

Its purpose can be a whole lot more soulful than merely delivering frosting.

Because you learn from your life, and in your art, that what’s underneath and around means a lot. That the frame you put around a painting changes how people see the painting. That the inner voices in a string quartet, even if you are only paying attention to the melody, have an incredibly powerful role in what you hear. That the mode of delivery for your frosting seriously affects what you taste.

So maybe there’s no merely anything. Maybe the humblest part needs to be honored, instead, as the basis for everything else. If you really want that first bite to be what you’re hoping for.

Maybe this isn’t really about cookies. It’s certainly not about perfection, unless you are talking about the kind of perfection that makes good cookies or good art or good anything else—the kind of perfection that is concerned not with flawlessness, but with hitting its mark, straight and deep and true. Maybe it’s about starting at the core with something good—with the best you’ve got, actually—and working your way out from there. Maybe it’s about all parts working together toward the same goal. Maybe it’s about putting your heart into it from the beginning and leaving it out there until the end, even if you make a mess.

Maybe that’s the kind of perfection we all want, anyway.

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  1. "Maybe it’s about putting your heart into it from the beginning and leaving it out there until the end, even if you make a mess." Words to live by!

    1. Thanks Sarah! When I warned Youngest that some (or a lot) of the sugar and sprinkles on her cookies was going to spill off, she said, "Mom. I planned it that way." I figure she's very good for me.

  2. Should I admit that I haven't planned on doing anything? I didn't even realize other mom's did. Oh my poor children. Someday they're going to realize how clueless their mother is.

    "So maybe there’s no merely anything." Love this. And rereading the last paragraphs after just doing some reading about Lenten practices makes my brain nudge me in a vague way. Something about using Lent to make sure that the core of me is doing well, that I'm not really working hard to put pretty icing and perfect sprinkles on top of a tasteless cookie. I don't really know what that will look like, but the idea seems to have grabbed onto something in my head.

    1. My kids have a clueless mother, too, I'm afraid. Thankfully they are (mostly) patient with me. I actually don't know what other moms do. My mom always had small gifts on the breakfast table for us before school, and both grandmas send the kids packages. So I find myself trying to keep up.


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