My dad sits in a wooden rocking chair in front of the fireplace. He’s wearing a wool sweater, warming his toes in the heat of the fire, and cradling my youngest niece who sleeps quietly on his shoulder. Picture books are strewn across the window seats and floor of our big open living room, which looks out over the ponds and the pastures and forest beyond. Dusk is falling in soft shadows across the farm. Over in the kitchen, I lean against the edge of the countertop with one of my sisters. My mom stands across from us, making pizza for dinner.
Her hands move purposefully and confidently. She reaches under the stove for a metal baking sheet, its worn patina testament to years of cooking. The battered surface is so seasoned by use that she doesn’t bother with parchment paper. A pale, creamy color and soft as a whisper, the dough has finished its rise. She pulls it out of the mixing bowl. Plop! goes the dough into the baking sheet.
Without missing a beat of conversation, barely moving her eyes from us, she presses the dough into a paper-thin layer onto the sheet and into the corners. We’re discussing relationships. And life. My mom, her hands sprinkling cheese across the dough now, urges us to “own our flaws” in relationships. And life.
I nod. I listen to her. I hear the background noises: Our dog shifts in her dog bed, settling into position for a nap. The dishwasher dings. Wind whips across the surface of the pond outside, rippling the water into shades of blue, dark blue, blue.
I don’t want to own my flaws. I want to discard them like a too-small sweater. But not just to abandon them, I want to push them away actively—I want to send them out with fanfare. I want to publicly say they are not mine. I want to toss them like pennies into a fountain: plink, plink, plink. Defensiveness in the face of criticism. Plink. Rigidity. Plink. Terror of loosening my grip. Plink, plink. A cold ferocity when I’m rubbed the wrong way.
She’s right, of course. Mothers have a way of being right. I’m all the pieces of me, and I’m reminded that I am, as Jane Austen writes, “mistress of myself”. I can judge myself harshly or I can treat myself as I’d treat someone I love—not a bit phased by their flaws or hard edges or missteps. They’re human! Who doesn’t have those things? The warmest, loveliest people in my life are ones who embrace their wholeness. And this…this I can do, too. I can be softer and more yielding. I can let go a little. I can emulate my dad, who’s always a comfort, quick to laugh, up for an adventure. I can be like my sister, who is calming and funny and generous with her attention.
These are projects, of course! They take practice. So I’ll practice. And when I feel the “I just don’t want to” feeling kick in again, I’ll do my best not to listen to it. I'll do one of the dozens of small things that are good, and bright, and like little splashes of light to fill up my life to the brim.
I’ll read poetry. I’ll turn on a good song and dance around the living room (look, no one is watching so that means I can be the world’s best, sassiest, coolest dancer just for 3 minutes). I’ll make cookie dough that’s even better than any cookie dough that came before. YOU KNOW WHAT, CARPE DIEM, I WILL MAKE A DOUBLE BATCH.
About that poetry, here’s a bit from “The Spell of the Yukon” by Robert Service. Read more here, and how could you not?
“The summer—no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;/
They’re making my money diminish;
I’m sick of the taste of champagne/
There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old/
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.”
About this dough: did you know that if you use half olive oil and half butter in your chocolate chip cookie dough, it will have an almost mousse-like, whipped quality? The dough itself is lighter and airier, and the cookies are chewier and more tender.
I found the recipe on this blog, and I rather love it. Just as she suggests, I use half bread flour and half all-purpose flour, but please don’t be deterred by that. If you only have all-purpose, that’s absolutely okay.
I use less chocolate that the original recipe calls for, but feel free to go wild and use up to double what I call for. Also, add flaky sea salt on top, because chocolate chip cookies really are just naked without it. Naked, yup!
If you want, you can add in some other mix-ins like oats, cacao nibs, or toasted chopped nuts. You are mistress of YOURSELF (or master, as the case may be), so act accordingly.
Okay, thanks for listening. Thanks for making cookies, if you do, because whomever you make them for will be better off for it, and you’ll have brightened your little sphere of life. To my mother, thanks for reading this far and being patient with your third child as she bumbles her way to a personhood she's proud of.
Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Cookies
Adapted from Displaced Housewife
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups dark chocolate chips
Flaky sea salt, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream together the sugars, butter, and olive oil until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well, scraping down the bowl as you go.
Add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix until just combined.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Scoop the dough by heaping spoonfuls (I like to use an ice cream scoop here) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a few inches between each. Sprinkle the tops with flaky salt.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. I like to underbake mine slightly but you do you.