The vernacular of the food blog is, like all rarefied sorts of discourse, a little wonky at times. It tries to insert some distinction into a set of instructions that are repeated endlessly, necessarily, in different variations, but with little intrinsic variety; how many times have you read that butter cut into flour should be “pea-sized”? (If you don’t make pies, don’t answer that.)
I think one of the food blog’s innovations has been to take a basic structure of the recipe form–“a [quantity] of [ingredient]”–i.e. the part of food writing that has most clearly entered cliche–and fuss with it. Instead of pinches, sprinkles, and dustings, we get slips, fillips, glugs. These modifications end up being about as precious as the rom-com voiceover whose imaginative foundation is the “spoonful of sugar”–mix two parts conflict with one part attraction, stir in a pinch of coincidence, and voila!–but they do seem one of the ways that the food blog vernacular has distinguished itself. Recipes in Gourmet didn’t sound like this; neither do the ones in my old Betty Crocker, or from Madhur Jaffrey.
I guess my recipes don’t sound like that either, but my point is that this blog, like any food blog, tries to tinker inventively with a set of familiar commonplaces. (I’ve noticed, for instance, that I like to “stash” things in the oven, as if they were illicit substances and the cops were at the door.) I would love a food discourse that didn’t rely on these sorts of high-school creative-writing-class hijinks, but I’m not there yet. Julia is, and it’s one reason I love her blog. Meanwhile, I have some food products I need to stash somewhere.
Months ago, I went down the rabbit hole of etymology to discover the root of “shortening.” This is the recipe that inspired the word hunt; like lots of old cookie recipes this one calls for shortening and I wondered why we ever came up with such a moniker for hardened fat. I would just like to remind you: isn’t it so weird that “shortening” comes from “short,” which doesn’t mean petite in this context but rather “Of edible substances: Friable, easily crumbled”?!? I think it is. From a fifteenth-century cookbook: “Þan take warme Berme, & putte al þes to-gederys, & bete hem togederys with þin hond tyl it be schort & þikke y-now.” I should consider writing all my recipes in middle English. THAT would be a food blog innovation.
[quick bow to the OED]
These are family cookies, all the way. When I make chocolate-chip cookies, my aunt asks if they’re in the style of my dad, which means in the style of their mom, which means with oatmeal in the batter. I have added coconut (don’t tell my father) because I suspect that one of my grandmother’s caretakers did so; grandma Mary was pretty ill during my life, and it was her caretakers who carried on her culinary traditions, one of which was marmalade, sealed with wax. (My dad says that in earlier years, my grandma would harvest oranges that grew in the median strips of busy roads in Arizona. Rad.) These cookies are the other tradition; my dad hates coconut so I’m sure that his mom didn’t include it, but I only ever knew the cookies that others baked with her recipe, and I am pretty sure they used coconut because when I included it I was suddenly in Sun City, drinking milk out of an Dutch enameled silver mini-mug.
Grandma Mary’s Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookies
makes around 20
NOTE: I have two secrets as to why my cookies come out better than yours (this is only if your cookies don’t come out well! The rest of you, I’m sure our cookies are equal). The first is parchment paper. The second is a double-layer insulated cookie sheet. Two thin layers of metal with air in between. The cookies never burn, and even though I have another cookie sheet I refuse to use it because this one, with parchment, works so well.
1/4 C Earth Balance or butter
1/4 C canola oil
3/4 C brown sugar
1 T chia seeds
1/2 t vanilla
1 C rolled oats
3/4 C AP flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 C chocolate chips
1/2 C coconut flakes
Preheat the oven to 375.
In a small bowl, stir the chia seeds with 3 T water and set aside. (This makes a chia egg–not a chia pet but a chia egg! You can use a regular hen egg, but I’m partial to chia.) In a large bowl, beat together the shortening, oil, and brown sugar with a wooden spoon. Then beat in the chia egg (by this time it will have formed a gel) and the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the contents of this bowl to the large bowl of wet ingredients, along with the chocolate chips and coconut flakes. Stir until combined.
Drop teaspoonfuls of the cookie batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are golden (mine take 12 without fail). Let cool on the sheetpan for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a cooking rack.