Chocolate chip cookie memory

I went back to the doctor for a follow-up appointment, and to reward myself (for nothing really), on my long walk back home, I decided to stop by Levain Bakery to pick up a few of their famously oversized, gooey chocolate chip cookies.

As I sat at my kitchen counter and ate this after dinner tonight, I suddenly remembered the one time when Ed baked something: he made chocolate chip cookies once, and only once. At that time, we didn’t have a regular oven since our oven was broken, and our family, being cheap and Chinese, not only had no use for a regular oven, but didn’t want to replace the broken one we had. But what we did have was a small convection oven, which was mostly used for dishes like roast chickens or other cuts of meat. Convection ovens aren’t typically used for baking, but it was all we had access to. So Ed went ahead, bought his chocolate chips and other random ingredients he needed for cookies, and went about making them.

At that time, I’d baked quite a bit with my aunt, but despite my experience baking, Ed insisted he wanted to do this all, step by step, by himself. So in between homework and other things, I’d stop by the kitchen to see how he was doing. He would carefully measure out each portion of flour, sugar, and other ingredients, then double and triple check the recipe to ensure he got it right. And at the end, when the cookies came out of the oven, I went into the kitchen to see how they’d turned out. They looked pretty good… but I noticed that the cookies were a bit paler than normal.

“Did you remember to use brown sugar?” I asked. “These don’t look that brown the way they normally do.”

“Oh, crap! I forgot the brown sugar!” he exclaimed, looking embarrassed and annoyed with himself at the same time. “Well, sugar is sugar, right?”

Well, not really. Brown sugar has a richer flavor, aids in caramelization, and because it has less moisture in it, it tends to lead to taller, cakier shaped cookie. White sugar has more moisture and less acidity, so your cookie will be paler, spread more, and also be more crisp.

I still commended him for baking since he’d never done it ever before, and had never expressed any previous interest in it. We both tasted them, and they were quite delicious (but when are they not right out of the oven?).

“Well, I did it!” he said.”I succeeded! I wanted to make cookies, and I did it!” He had this big, goofy smile on his face. He was clearly so proud of himself.

I thought it was cute at the time, yet a bit pathetic. He was already an adult by then, and it seemed a bit funny to me that he would get so excited about something as simple as this. But in retrospect, I just feel sad thinking about it.

In Ed’s life, he had little validation. He just wanted to know he was able to accomplish little things that meant something, and unfortunately, our parents weren’t really capable of doing that for him. His teachers weren’t capable. No one really did it. I guess there was the occasional positive validation from his cousins and me, but that was really it.

I wish Ed could taste this Levain cookie now. He might obsess over it, wondering if it was really cooked through enough (well, “enough” is subjective, right?), but I’m sure he would enjoy it just as much, if not more, than I am right now.

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