I'm not that great at a lot of things. I don't know when to stop talking. I have ideas of grandeur and the motivation of a snail. I collect a thousand recipes and never organize them.
One thing I am good at is spending time in the kitchen. Read closely, I didn't say I was a good cook. I just cook a lot. I feel good with my apron on, singing along to some terrible country station on the radio and kids begging me to take a break from the stove.
Someone's having a baby; I cook. A neighbor is getting married; I cook. My friend is sick; I cook.
On Tuesday we had our friends Ryan, Dina and their boys over for a pizza night. We've hung out and played with them a thousand times before, but last night was special. It was the first time Dina had been to our house since a ski accident in January left her with a brain injury. Before that, the last time she was here, we sat in my basement and drank wine and watched a TV show just before Christmas.
After her accident, a steady train of dinners started arriving at her home. It's one thing nearly everyone feels they can do to help out. Drop off a casserole, a rotisserie chicken or, as some of her out-of-town friends did, have a pizza delivered. Since returning home, Dina has said she was overwhelmed with the amount of support her friends offered her and her family while she recovered.
At times since, she has been left searching for the person she was before that January day. She said a few weeks back that she hoped she was the kind of person who would cook for friends in need. I assured her she was. Last night, she said the last memory she had of being at my house was back in November when she came by to drop off a lasagna. I had a two-week-old baby, and even though she probably didn't have any more free time than usual, she had baked a lasagna for my family to enjoy during those rocky, sleepless first weeks of a newborn in the house.
She was that type of friend, and I am so blessed that she still is that kind of friend. The kind of friend that, despite the fact that simple tasks such as writing have become the culmination of months of therapy, she is sending out hand-written birthday cards.
I hope that you have a friend or two like Dina. If you do, you're blessed. And don't forget to tell them just that. And take them a plate of warm cookies. Or a dinner, or some homemade jam. Anything, really, whether you're a good cook or not. Food nourishes memories in a simple and solid way that sometimes even our minds can't quite replicate.
Snickerdoodle Cookies Saveur, Jan. 21, 2010
3 cups flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1 3⁄4 cups sugar
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Using a handheld mixer on medium speed, beat 1 1⁄2 cups sugar and the butter together in a medium bowl until pale and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add 2 tsp. cinnamon and the vanilla; beat for 1 minute more. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add reserved dry ingredients; mix on low speed until just combined. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
2. Heat oven to 375°. Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Remove dough from refrigerator and, using a 1-tbsp. measure, spoon out 48 portions, rolling each portion into a 1" ball as you go. Roll each ball in cinnamon–sugar mixture to coat. Arrange dough balls 2" apart on 2 parchment paper–lined baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool.
MAKES 48 COOKIES