Monday, February 5, 2007

Carl's Cookies

The other evening, while I was making dinner—a delicious ratatouille, I might add, which shall serve as a dish to expand my ever-growing vegetarian repertoire—Carl, a fellow American from Bowden College, came into the kitchen laden with shopping bags. From the looks of things, he intended to do some baking. As he began to assemble his ingredients for chocolate chip cookies on the counter, I complimented him on his ambition. Gradually, I realized that he was blindly ambitious. Firstly, he informed me—with some incredulity, lessened by our time having lived here—that the largest bags of chocolate chips Tesco had were these. He held up bags of chocolate chips smaller than bags of M&Ms you can find at rest stops on some American turnpikes. Hence, he had bought four.

Before he could even begin, Carl came up with an immediate shortage: no mixing bowl. Granted, we are a communal kitchen, but how many college students bake from scratch? Looking around, I suggested that he use the next largest container: a wok. Thus, he was reduced to grinding away at his sugar and butter by hand—for we certainly lacked electric beaters, if we had no mixing bowl—in a wok. As the butter had no markings, Carl asked me to estimate if I thought it looked like two American sticks worth of butter. It looked a little short, but the hunk looked about the width of two sticks, so I told him so. What a shoddy manner of baking! One piece of information I was able to impart in a confident manner, however, was how to measure brown sugar: Carl was complaining about how white sugar settled so nicely into the measuring cup (we did have one of those in the kitchen by chance), while brown sugar never measured reliably. I came over to him and told him that was because he had to use a spoon and pack it down into the cup.

Finally, after seemingly endless mixing, the cookies were inserted into an oven preheated to an interminable temperature (a 5 on a 1-6 dial oven) and baked for an indeterminable time (until they looked done, apparently). As there was an entire batch, however, the communal kitchen became filled with communal cookies, which did come out rather tasty, if a bit crisp.

Once again, I was reminded why I do not bake away from home: the unknown requires improvisation, and baking is a science—improvisation is not my forte in this realm. Carl succeeded, though, and is now the kitchen favorite.

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