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Equal Time for Cookies

- December 11, 2008

Having blogged about bagels, pie, and cake, I now turn to the other basic food group: cookies. (I’ve already written about cookies — (Hydrox and Oreos) — but they don’t count because they’re what my mother called “store-boughten.”)

My mother was world-famous — well, Watertown, South Dakota-famous (or maybe our neighborhood-famous) — for her chocolate chip cookies. Cookie purists would turn up their nose at these cookies (she used Crisco rather than butter and the cookies were doughy rather than crisp). To eat one (and nobody ate just one), however, was to experience instant rapture. To honor my mother’s memory, I eat a cookie every day at lunchtime. So far, a cookie a day isn’t keeping the doctor away, but I’m workin’ on it.

Anyway, just as I was planning my luncheon repast several days ago (“Hmmm, boy, it would be great to have a nice big doughy chocolate chip cookie”) while reading the on-line New York Times, I spotted the following in Mark Bittman’s “Bitten” column.

cookies.jpg

What an invaluable contribution to human welfare and the happiness of small children and elderly political scientists! If you really like cookies and aren’t a baker, then this book would make a wonderful Christmas or Hanukkah gift for Someone Who Is a Baker, and you may even score some thank-you cookies for your oh-so-thoughtful gift.

Here’s Laura Anderson’s review in the Times:

bq. To me, cookie-baking season is year-long. But since some people consider the winter holidays a particularly apt time for making cookies, it comes as no shock that Anita Chu’s “Field Guide to Cookies: How to Identify and Bake Virtually Every Cookie Imaginable” was released just before the holiday season. It looks more like a stocking-stuffer than a serious cookbook, but, surprisingly, its classic field-guide-style package (thank you, Roger Tory Peterson) comes pretty close to delivering on its bold subtitle.

bq. This isn’t to say that “Field Guide to Cookies” is flawless. Cookie purists will take issue with Chu’s inclusion of baklava, profiteroles and cheese gougères, which fall pretty undeniably on the pastry side of the baked goods line. And anyone planning actually to use any of Chu’s 100-odd recipes will be frustrated by the book’s size and binding; good luck trying to get the stiff pages of the 5-inch tall book to stay open on the counter next to your electric mixer.

bq. But, for the most part, it is both appealing and thorough. Novices will surely appreciate Chu’s clear writing and the book’s use of icons designating which tools are necessary for each step of each recipe. Experienced cookie makers will be impressed by the breadth of her repertoire — I, for one, had never before encountered ANZAC biscuits (oatmeal-coconut cookies named for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), kue nastar (Indonesian pineapple cookies) or TV snacks (salted almond cookies invented by French chef Arnaud Larher).

bq. Chu has researched each cookie’s history — if you enjoy food trivia, such as the origin of the name “Oreo” (does it come from the Greek “oros” or the French “or”?), prepare yourself for a great read.

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