Sunday, November 6, 2016

In praise of the reasonable.

Reasonable Cookies on 1950's pink milk glass party set by Jeannette Glass Co. © Ryan Schierling
There are two days until the Great United States Election of 2016 and suddenly this post which has too-long languished in the “draft” folder seems eminently relevant and meaningful.

On one of our adventure days last Fall, we went on a road trip to Smilthville, TX. It was a beautiful day and Ryan and I wandered happily around town holding hands and meandering in and out of vintage stores and antique shops.

In one of these little stores, we rather immediately became distracted in different directions, subjects to the gravitational pull of random curiosities. My detour took me around a corner to a cubby with a small shelf of cookbooks situated at eye level. Old cookbooks are a tricky thing. While the novelty is generally captivating, by today’s standards they are more often in the fashion of a historical record than a serviceable guide book. A hardback that immediately stood out was called “The Uncommon Cookbook” and it was published in 1968 (what I like to consider the height of Campbell’s soup-based cookery). I pulled it off the shelf and broke it open.

The first recipe to catch my eye was for “Reasonable Cookies,” which was just strange enough a recipe name that I snapped a quick photo of the page in a moment of confused disbelief as to how anyone could have thoughtfully named them that without any indication as to why. The complete absence of hyperbole was remarkable. These weren’t called “Mrs. Fitz’s Fabulous Corn Flake Cookies” or “Devourable Cookies” or “Amazing Chewy Coconut Cookies” nope, these were “Reasonable Cookies”. In my mind they may as well have been called “Average Cookies” or “Don’t-mind-me-I’m-just-a-cookie Cookies.”

Of course, I had to make them. I mean, what does “reasonable” really taste like? Will I understand it when I eat it? Perhaps. Reasonable is not bitter or acerbic, saccharine or self-aggrandizing. Reasonable is recognizable and palatable, humble and reassuring. I know this because I've made these cookies many times. You will like them and want them again and that is wisely as it should be. Maybe reasonable is the middle ground that we all should all stop ignoring. Maybe reasonable has been marginalized in favor of extremes.

I made the mistake of not purchasing that cookbook the very day I found it. It was an act of restraint I regretted a couple of weeks later and ended up purchasing a used copy online. It’s a hot pink out-of-print number that seems to have the relatively uncommon for 1968 attribute of respecting ingredients. Plus, these folks were brave enough to publish a recipe proclaimed reasonable. It's a median worth revisiting.

There are two days until the Great United States Election of 2016, and I’m profoundly awakened to how precious, powerful and purposeful is the word and concept of “reasonable." That only we might dare seek out the common in the most uncommon of places, we may find it amazing.

Reasonable Cookies  (The Uncommon Cook Book, 1968) 

1 1/2 cups butter (can use part margarine or shortening)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar (firmly-packed)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup quick-cooking oats
3 cups corn flakes
1 cup coconut
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sift dry ingredient together and add. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls on greased pans and bake at 350º F for 10 to 15 minutes.

To prepare ahead of time:  These can be baked ahead of time; keep in airtight containers.

To freeze:  Yes, these freeze.

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