Jul 31st, 2009 by Marilyn
While we wind up (or down) our vacation, I’m pleased to bring you one last guest post, a little gem from Culinerapy’s Sara Reddy Coyne. This California girl has a knack for sweet depth in the kitchen, her writing like a comfortably noisy screen door, nearly always leading to something good. I’m glad she stepped in here today – and no surprise, she brought cookies.
Oatmeal Lace Cookies & Home, by Sara Reddy Coyne
I’ve been thinking a lot about Home lately. Not the home I have today, but the Home of my childhood; the one of family Sunday brunches with dad making epic omelets, mom scraping burnt toast into the sink, and me and my sister sipping fresh-squeezed orange juice and sharing the comics section of the newspaper, spread out giggling on the floor. The Home where all those Thanksgivings and Christmases took place, where summers stretched out far beyond the horizon, and winters were made warm with hot cocoa by the fire, or all of us gathered around a bowl of popcorn to watch a movie on VHS.
I’ve been thinking of this Home, and the sad truth is, the more I think about it, the less certain I am that Home ever existed.
Years of hard-earned cynicism have me doubting my own memories. Maybe I’ve simply watched It’s a Wonderful Life too many times, or have been too affected by my beloved Little Women (the mom of my childhood Home certainly does resemble Marmee in a her warm, wise ways).
We all know our memories are selective. But is Nostalgia cunning enough to completely rewrite our history?
I certainly hope not. Because I’m awfully fond of my memories — real or not.
As children, it doesn’t take much to be happy. We weren’t looking to be impressed, weren’t always expecting something better or newer or next. We could spend hours stalking bugs in the tall grass, happy for mom to deliver us an orange juice popsicle in the back yard, the syrup melting down our arms. It didn’t matter that mom made the popsicles from concentrate, or that there was only ever one flavor. They were simple, delicious, and reliable. Kind of like home.
So when I find myself craving Home, nothing, NOTHING says Home to me like simple, perfect oatmeal cookies.
My mom didn’t rely much on cookbooks. In fact, from what I can remember, we only had one in the kitchen: The Settlement Cook Book, which was first published in 1901, and guarantees the recipes are “The way to a man’s heart.”
This is a no-fuss cookbook: no pictures, little instruction, simple recipes. It’s packed full of good all-American home cooking: dumplings, butter cakes, baked biscuit desserts, pot roasts and stews. But what interested me most, back then and still now, are the cookies. Oatmeal Lace Cookies.
There are only five ingredients, and all you need is one bowl and a spoon to mix them with. Everything you need to make them you’ll likely already have on hand. These are the ultimate late-night, missing-home, looking-for-comfort nostalgic cookies: they’re chewy and crunchy and taste almost more like candy than cookie.
I absolutely adore the understated sparseness of the recipe itself, so I am leaving the language intact for your enjoyment. However, I’ve added a few notes at the bottom to help you along.
When you smell these cookies, and you dip their thin, lacey frames into your glass of milk, I promise your adulthood skepticism will melt away as the brown sugar and butter melts on your tongue. And with a single bite, you will be Home again.
Oatmeal Lace Cookies (from The Settlement Cook Book)
1/2 cup melted butter
2 ½ cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, beaten
Melt butter, add to dry ingredients. Add egg, mix well. Drop from spoon 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes at 350. Let stand 1 minute, remove from pan.
*Writer’s notes: I recommend adding 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon salt. Also, keep each cookie just under 1 tablespoon, as they spread quite dramatically during cooking, and become very thin (and lace-like). Allow the edges to grow deep golden brown before removing from oven. And finally, I found I needed to let them rest for 2-3 minutes before they were stiff enough to remove from the cookie sheet. Best served with a glass of cold milk, and some warm nostalgia.