"Can you believe these cookies are made on a waffle iron?" I asked, my eyes as big as saucers.
“I’d rather make Grandma’s Christmas cookies, the ones we cut out and frost,” he said. "Those are my favorite."
“We can make those later this summer,” I told him. “You’re going to love these waffle cookies, I just know it!”
I felt giddy with excitement as I gathered the ingredients and placed them on the kitchen counter.
I asked Mom for the recipe more than two years ago. I remember her saying – in neither a happy nor sad voice – that she had the recipe. She emailed it to me and asked casually a few times if I had made the cookies.
I always told her I hadn’t done it, but I was planning to bake them. I just hadn’t gotten that far.
Last fall Mom was diagnosed with cancer, and she passed away in the winter. In some ways I felt guilty that I had never made those cookies while she was alive, even though I made countless other treats -- and many for her.
Now I wanted to make the cookies to keep her memory alive for my kids and for me. And although I had never actually seen her make the cookies, I had appreciated them so much the few times she baked them for my brother and me. They were waiting for us when we got home from school.
Mom baked a lot. She baked every week, but I recall her making the waffle cookies only a few times.
Henry measured out the sugar and cracked the eggs while I carefully counted the cups of flour and poured the vanilla into the mixing bowl.
After we baked a few cookies, I took a picture and texted it to my brother.
I didn't know when the cookies were done and wished I could turn down the heat on the waffle iron, but it was a basic model and only had two settings: off and on. I struggled to get the cookies out of the waffle iron until I perfected (this is not the right word) my technique with a fork and a spatula. I found myself wanting to call Mom to ask for some pointers.
I told Henry he could lick the beater, and he did.
"This doesn't taste very sweet," he said. His eyebrows were furrowed.
"Did you put the sugar in?" I asked.
He swore he did, and I remembered seeing him dump in the full amount.
"Well, they are delicious cookies. The frosting is what really makes them extra good."
When it came time to make the frosting, I turned on a burner and melted butter and sugar and chocolate, and after the rolling boil stage, it was nearly rock hard. I poured it into bowls, and Henry and I scraped it onto the cookies with knives. It was so hard that I had to make another half batch because it didn’t go far enough.
Had I accidentally made fudge?
I was swearing and laughing. We both were sweating. Poor Henry didn’t know what he had gotten himself into, but we frosted the cookies by pouring the new batch over the first pitiful layer of frosting. It worked.
"I bet Grandma's laughing at us now, Henry," I said.
He agreed we were putting on quite a comedy show.
“We’ve spent 90 minutes on these cookies so far,” Henry said, sighing.
Noah, my cookie-loving son, walked into the kitchen. I told him to go ahead and try a cookie if he wanted one. After he took a bite, I asked what was wrong.
Henry and I each grabbed a cookie and took a bite.
I took another picture and sent it to my brother. He responded.
“Sometimes you make things, and you decide not to make them again,” I said.
“So you’re not going to make these again?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
When Isaac got home from summer school, he raced into the kitchen, opened up the container, surveyed the scene, and quickly closed it.
“Do you want to eat a cookie?” I asked.
“No thank you,” he said.
No thank you? I’ve never known the kid to pass up a cookie. In fact, he’s pretty much a human garbage disposal, especially when a dessert is involved.
My brother called on his way home from work to say he remembered those cookies, but he didn’t remember them as a sweet cookie. Apparently he has a better memory than I do. I had the feeling they weren't one of his favorites. We had a good laugh about the cookies and what a challenge they were to make, and he made me feel better when he said the recipe must not be up to par.
When Chris got home from work, he looked at the cookies and said,“Oh, you’ve been busy. Did you and Henry make those?"
I told him what a disappointment the cookies were, how long it took to make them, how difficult it was to cook on a waffle iron, and how frustrated I felt. But I had made the damn things. Somehow that made me feel better. I could cross it off my list.
He promised he’d eat a cookie after dinner.
“They’re dry. I’m going to need something to drink,” he said as he sat at the kitchen table.
I reminded him there was a giant glass of water in front of him. “Do you think they’d be better with coffee?” I asked.
“No,” he said, slowly shaking his head from side to side.
I thought about throwing the cookies outside in the backyard, but decided that wasn’t a good idea. What if a stray dog ate one and was poisoned? What if a rabid raccoon chewed on one and used it to sharpen its teeth?
I added two slices of bread to the cookie container. It was a trick I had learned from Mom. She had told me years ago that bread will soften up hard cookies.
I ate a cookie every day, hoping and praying it would be the cookie of my dreams. It disappointed me every time. Did the cookies get a little softer as the bread got a little harder? Yes, they did. But I needed an entire loaf of bread and a miracle to make these cookies transform into the cookie I remembered.
Henry ate a few cookies now and then, probably because he endured such a hardship to help make them.
Finally one afternoon I got rid of them.
“Where did the cookies go?” Henry yelled, when he noticed they were gone.
“I threw them away. They were not calorie-worthy cookies.”
“You just threw them in the garbage?”
“Yes, I did. I thought you didn’t like them?”
“Well, I didn’t like them,” Henry explained, “but I didn’t want you to throw them away.”
Did he want to use them as a door stop?
Mom baked weekly. Sometimes, I swear, she baked daily. She was an excellent baker and cook who often baked for friends and family. Yet as far as I know, she only made the waffle cookies a few times over the decades.
My brother and I never ate waffles at home. I wasn’t even sure she owned a waffle maker.
My parents saved everything. After Mom died, I sorted through their entire house to prepare for an estate auction, but I never found a waffle maker.
She must have gotten rid of it, as improbable as it sounds. But now I can understand why.
I had to smile when it dawned on me why Mom had only made the waffle cookies a few times.
It was a pretty simple explanation, really.
The cookies were a pain in the ass.