You teach your children some fashion sense
And they fashion some of their own
- Gordon Downie

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Cookie Fiasco

A bit of background is probably necessary, so here is what you need to know.

First, I am one of four men on a staff of about 30.
Second, I love to cook.
Third, though I love to cook, I have not made many batches of cookies. Until this week....

I'll create this post as a chronological stream of thoughts connected to my recent participation in our staff cookie exchange.

October 27
One of my colleagues sends an e-mail to see how many people are interested in holding a cookie exchange to get a jump start on holiday baking. My initial thought is, "I don't bake cookies and I don't really like cookies". Great idea, but not for me.

October 29
For some reason, I write back to my colleague and let her know that I'm interested in the exchange. My kids love cookies. One time, I even baked peanut butter cookies from a recipe. I've made lots of those Pillsbury cookies. I've even made the "Cookie Dough" cookies. I'm committed to the cookie exchange. Heck, I'm not the only guy in the exchange, either!

Mid November
The date for our cookie exchange is set.There are eleven people involved, which means I need to make 11 dozen cookies. I am excited. I tell my wife. She nods and says, "That's nice honey."
How hard can this be?

Early December
Much to my surprise, the staff room conversation indicates that people have begun baking their cookies. When asked if have started baking yet, I respond with a good-natured laugh. Once again, I can't help but think "How hard can this be?" After all, I've made cookies before.

December 4
It is Saturday and we have a busy day of hockey. I briefly think of the cookie exchange. Maybe I should find that recipe I made once upon a time. Was it on a peanut butter jar or in a magazine? No sweat - I don't think the exchange is for at least a week. Instead of buying cookie ingredients, I head to M & M to buy wings for the hockey coach's "meeting" we are hosting this evening. The cookies can wait - I've got lots of time during the evenings next week.

December 6
It's Monday. The cookie exchange is Wednesday. One of my colleagues asks if I have got my cookies ready yet. I laugh it off and so does she - "Ha ha, Ted, you are such a guy!" Before I leave school today, it actually dawns on me that I don't have much time left. Better find a recipe so I can buy ingredients. Thank goodness for Google! I find a super easy recipe that requires only three ingredients. On our way home from Cubs, I take the boys Superstore. As we walk through the aisles, my eight year old peers over his glasses and says, "Dad, we haven't been in the grocery store with you for a long time." He's right and it takes me forever to find all of the ingredients, so we don't get home until nearly 8:30. I still have to write my sub plans for tomorrow and plan a hockey practice before I get to bed. Oh well - the exchange is Wednesday and I still have another night to bake the cookies. I've got the ingredients, I've got the recipe. How hard can this be? My boys love cookies and will help me out tomorrow night, since my wife is working a night shift and won't be around to supervise.

December 7
It's Tuesday. The day before the exchange...
5:30 a.m. - Wake up. We have an early morning hockey practice today.
8:15 a.m. - Get to school, finish my sub plans, get things ready for the day.
9:15 a.m. - Run home, shower, change for my meeting, head to Central Office for the day.
3:30 p.m. - Stop by school on my way home from the meeting. Things are looking up - it's really quiet in the school, so I can head home. Maybe I can get a couple of batches of cookies made before I head to hockey tonight. Both kids have practice.
6:30 p.m. - On our way home from hockey practice, I pick up some "Winter Ale". It's the festive season, so I figure should have the beer to match. Besides, I usually have a couple while I'm cooking, so how can baking be any different? Better hustle - the Oilers game starts at 7:30 and I want to make sure I get the first 3 dozen cookies in the oven before the game starts. If I play it, I should be able to get all of the cookies baked over the course of the hockey game.
7:30 - Both boys are home from hockey. With their help, I should be able to get this taken care of. The hockey game has started, so I put the boys to work unwrapping Hershey Kisses. They take care of this quickly and want to help mixing the cookie batter. Finish beer #1.
7:49 - The first two dozen cookies go in the oven and the third dozen go on my wife's fancy stoneware Pampered Chef cookie sheet. Watch out, cookie world, I'm ready! Finish beer #2.
8:05 - The first two batches come out of the oven and I realize I'm not sure what to do next. how long should they cool before I take them off the cookie sheets? I really need to keep going.
8:10 - The first period of the Oilers game ends and I'm still mixing cookie dough. I rush a bit and don't make exact measurements on the next batch. Oh well, they are just cookies. Finish beer #3. In hindsight, maybe that is why I didn't pay as much attention...
8:15 - I realize that 11 dozen cookies is going to take up a lot of counter space. They won't all fit on the fancy cookie cooling rack. I ask for help from my cookie elves, but they are sound asleep thanks to our early mornings and hockey practices.
8:20 - The stoneware sheet comes out of the over and these cookies look different. Hmmmm. I let them cool for a longer time
8:34 - The fourth and fifth dozen cookies go in the oven. To save time, I don't clean the cookie sheets off completely. Between the darn stoneware batch, not letting the cookies coollong enought and "quality control" tastings, I have less than 3 dozen cookies ready to go.
8:50 -The fourth and fifth dozen don't come off the cookie sheets as well as I would like, so I completely clean them off. Once again, I "man follow" the recipe measurements.
9:15 - The "man follow" recipe batch go in the oven. In the interest of time, I decide to leave them in for just 10 minutes. Look in my beer box. Only 2 left. Hmmm.
9:25 - This batch of cookies looks different, somehow. Hmmm. Better let them cool.
9:30 - It's getting late. I still haven't watched any of the Oilers game. My cookie elves are sound asleep. My lovely wife phones about three minutes after I start trying to remove this batch from the oven. It's not going well. I'm not using good language. I haven't watched a minute of the Oiler's game and they are losing 2-0. Why couldn't we have a chicken wing exchange???? At least I know how to make wings!
9:31 - The Oilers tie the game. I'm washing the cookie sheets again. I know it's getting late, but I can't help it and I have to watch the Oiler game. No problem - it's not even close to midnight yet.
9:45 - The next batch of cookies goes in the oven. I'm much more careful with this batch of dough - I don't want to run out of ingredients...
10:00 - This batch comes out of the oven. The Oilers game goes into overtime, so I let the cookies cool a bit longer. I'm about half done my cookie commitment. I know because I've counted these cookies over and over. Maybe I can buy the rest of them at Sobey's???
10:30 - The Oilers game went into the longest shootout I have ever seen and the Oilers still found a way to lose. I decide I need to honor my cookie baking commitment. I would much rather be cooking up a batch of wings. I'm good at that... My wife calls me back. I decide I need to take the high road because that is what making a commitment is all about. Beer is gone.
12:00 - The final batch comes out of the oven. I let them cool and go watch tonight's episode of "Glee" on the PVR.
1:00 - The final cookies come off the sheets and get placed in the fancy cookie bags my wife keeps for special occasions. I flop onto my bed, reeking of peanut butter and winter ale.

How hard could it be?


But at least my family has 11 dozen different cookies, because I'll never eat them.

What was I thinking??????????