Me and Carla. Not making cookies.
(Photo cred: Sarah More)
Over the course of our stay, Carla and I had become friends. I helped her with her English, listened to her gossip, and she laughed at my absurd facial expressions and Spanish inadequacy. She may be small and dainty, but don’t be fooled, Rambo has nothing on Carla. So it should come as no surprise that she tricked me- yes, tricked me- into baking cookies for the entire staff and the chicas locas.
I like to cook, but baking is an entirely different story, and what with an unfamiliar oven, I never would have volunteered my services in that arena. That didn’t stop Carla.
“What kind of desserts do you eat in the United States?” she asked me in Spanish one afternoon while I was painting. “Um… I like cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies,” I absent-mindedly replied, not being much of a multitasker. I should have known this was a loaded question. “Aaaah, chocolate chip cookies,” she repeated, slowly rolling the foreign words over her tongue. “Chocolate chip cookies. ¿Galletas con chocolate?” “Si,” I responded, putting the finishing touches on a red howler monkey. “So, what do you need to make these cookies?” she innocently asked. “Uh, well, you have chocolate, eggs, flour, baking soda, sugar, vanilla, and some salt I believe.” “Aaaah si. We have those ingredients.” She paused. “So you will make them this week, no?” “Sure. Wait- what?”
And that is how the cookie catastrophe began. I held out several days, hoping that she had forgotten, but Carla has a mind like a steel trap, and I wasn’t let off the hook that easily.
I got my mother’s recipe from her online and went about making the things one sweltering afternoon. Erica and Carla kindly lent their services while the men sat about snickering at us breaking a sweat mixing the ingredients together in the absence of a mixer. God, what I would have given for a mixer. We didn’t have a measuring cup either, so we used mugs which we didn’t realize until later were two different sizes.
The chocolate was pure and tasted like bitter nothingness, but we had no choice but to use it, so in it went with the batter. The batter itself wasn’t the right consistency, so we added a little more of this and a little more of that until it was a far cry from what the recipe called for. Not the best idea considering that baking is an exact science.
the midst of the cookie catastrophe.
“How many people are there?” I asked. We settled on about 15 people eating cookies, so we began making more batter. In went the first batch. Carla lit the oven with a candle and we waited. “It’s not the best oven,” Carla said. “Fantastic,” I thought. Before long, we took a look in the oven and saw that the cookies were in fact now one large cookie. “Umm. We have a problem,” I said to Erica. “It’s one big cookie.” “Oh no. How did that happen?” she asked. “I don’t know! Maybe we put in too much butter or something?” I frantically asked no one in particular, trying to make sense of why jaguars and caimans didn’t freak me out, but baking a batch of cookies did.
Finally, the massive cookie was finished and we took it out of the oven. We had buttered the pan, but nonetheless, we struggled to scrape the cookie off the metal. Paper-thin and tough, this was not a cookie I was interested in eating. Erica took a bite and I waited for her reaction. Her eyes lit up and she nodded her head in approval. The chicas locas poured into the kitchen and tasted it as well. Shockingly, they all seemed to like it.
Carla, Tomas, and Juanma were not so impressed. “More sugar, more flour, more salt,” Tomas said. I began to think of what we could do to keep the cookies in the second batch from getting so thin. “I think we should make more of a cookie cake this time,” I told Carla. She pulled out the flour and some other powdery substance I wasn’t familiar with, and we mixed them both into the leftover batter. I crossed my fingers and sent up a prayer to the dessert gods that this thing would pan out. No pun intended.
After about fifteen minutes, we checked on the cake. Not ready. More time passed. Still uncooked at the bottom. I began to get nervous that the thing would never bake through. “No te importa, Tina. Don’t worry,” Reynaldo said, which did absolutely nothing to make me feel better.
Finally, the cookie cake was ready and we took it out of the oven. I cut a piece and bit into it. Not bad. The chocolate still tasted like saw dust, but at least it kind of, sort of tasted like a cookie. Even Juanma and Lilia approved of this strange concoction, so I was mostly satisfied with the outcome. And at least there was plenty for everyone. After dinner, Carla came up to me. “Next week we will make more cookies, no?” Oy vey.