When it comes to desserts, I was a bit of a late bloomer. It wasn't until my mid-twenties that, along with my wisdom teeth, my first sweet tooth appeared. It's not like I didn't have plenty of opportunities to cut my teeth on confections when I was young. My mom was a baker and would bring home leftovers wrapped tightly in cellophane almost every day. Yet, I would leave the treats for my dad, who would grab a cookie and a tall glass of milk, and relax on the couch after dinner. My mom didn't much like sweets herself, which I attribute to her Taiwanese upbringing. The islanders seemed to have little concept of dessert, unless you count the the fresh tropical fruit they put out on dishes, with a cup full of toothpicks, as treats for guests. The closest thing to dessert that I remember my mom cooking for herself was boiled peanut soup, a semi-sweet and savory brown mush, which I never could develop a taste for, despite my persistent efforts.
It wasn't until I met Ariel that I learned to love sweets. I was already well-acquainted with the three dour flavors of bitter, salty, and sour; however, it was Ariel who brought sweetness to my life.
Just before we started dating, Ariel and her two roommates had formed a pact that they would work together, trading daily shifts, to ensure that their kitchen counter constantly brimmed with fresh baked goodies. Guided by the wafting aroma of cinnamon buns and blueberry scones, my nose led me out of the dark cave where my former ascetic self had retreated for a savory hermitage, and I triumphantly surfaced to the joyful experience of sweets.
In a short span of time, my relationship with cookies and cakes dramatically altered, and not only were they tasty, but I developed a peculiar emotional connection to them. I found that by eating them, I could access varied sugared memories spent with my sweetheart: a decadent meal we ate together in the warm belly of a castle in southern France, a weekend movie binge making caramel popcorn, or a breakfast in Spain consisting of churros con chocolate.
Yesterday we hosted a cookie exchange in our home, and, with ovens blazing for three years counting, we can safely call it a holiday tradition. Ariel and I improvised a recipe after receiving a surprise gift shipment of the winter's harvest from our friends at Bobeda Farm, making persimmon and walnut cookies, seasoned with cloves and cinnamon. Our friends arrived with a dizzying assortment of goodies to share, collected from enough recipes to fuel a season's worth of shows on the Food Network, and included: macaroons, Irish shortbread, chocolate rum, and even snowflake-topped cupcakes. Every bare surface of our apartment rapidly overflowed with homemade delicacies, reminding me of Stone Soup, where small contributions make a grand feast; Hansel and Gretel where lines get blurred between what is edible and what is house; and The Sorcerer's Apprentice where a good idea turns into too much of a good thing (in our case, a flood of goodies that we were pleading for people to take home with them).
What inspires me this week is cookies, and all the sweetness that has entered my life, from Ariel, my friends, and my family. Long after our friends have left our home for the night, the warmth of their bodies still fills our rooms with comforting heat. And the plateful of cookies that remains tempts me to skip my normal savory (no sugar) oatmeal breakfast routine and dip a few of the sweet, buttery, pale disks into a large mug of hot coffee, as perfectly as the pale moon quenches itself over a dark, steaming lake. Yes, sugar makes me dream.
Thanks to all our friends for contributing their unique recipe of sweetness to our lives.
Sam (and Ariel)