What’s your favorite comfort food in good times and bad?
Mine’s pizza with the works, spaghetti and meatballs, or chicken pot pie…and any of the above followed by a handful of warm chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of ice-cold milk.
Today’s legacy tin symbolizes the homey comfort of cookies to me. It’s a vintage chocolate chip advertisement, about 6 inches high, square, and sunshine yellow. One side shows a classic mid-century housewife with her plate of home-baked goodies, another a boy’s guilty surprise at discovering an empty cookie jar. A third side reprints the newly popular recipe.
Long before I collected tins, I collected recipes…from my bridal year onward. My recipe for chocolate chip cookies came from my mom—and from Grammie before her, and they both probably clipped it off a package of Nestlé’s chocolate chips. The date on my stained index card fades back to 1980. But I almost don’t need it anyway, I’ve made the recipe so many times.
Memories from a Maine Icon
The chocolate chip tin may not be that old, but it looks nearly as battered as the recipe. For decades, it’s held birthday cake paraphernalia, everything from half-burned candles to past decorations. The gems of memory…
- The FELIZ ANIVERSARIO 25 from our Silver Wedding, back in Santiago prime time.
- The black Over the Hill candle from my 40th birthday, which seems like the days of youth now.
- The Rainbow Brite topper from Daughter #2’s Birthday #3 on Furlough #1. She wore a side ponytail on that occasion!
Paradoxically—since my mom’s the one who hooked me (from birth ?) on chocolate chip cookies—she’s also the one who started me collecting tins. It began with a trip to Maine in the summer of 1995, for my dad’s retirement party and my youngest sister’s wedding. After the celebrations were over and I was packing to return to Chile, we made a shopping trip to a Maine-icon discount store in Waterville. My first visit to a place everybody talked about.
To this day, I don’t know why Mom pointed out the aisle of antique-look advertising tins, or why they sparked my interest, but they did. For her, maybe ’50’s nostalgia kicked in. For me, it was probably homesickness, since I didn’t get to Maine often in those days.
But mostly, those tins represented a delicious slice of ordinary life that intrigued me.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
These days we use the same basic recipe with M&M’s and butterscotch chips and chocolate kisses, oatmeal and peanut butter. Then there’s bars and pies and squares with a salted caramel layer. However it’s dressed up, I’m pretty sure chocolate chip has become the world’s favorite cookie.
But it’s a newcomer to the dessert scene. Less than one hundred years ago, Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield purchased a tourist lodge in Whitman, Massachusetts, and renamed it the Toll House Inn. There they served home-cooked comfort food, and there Ruth and a local woman, Sue Brides, invented via Yankee experimentation the chocolate chip cookie in 1938.
The outbreak of World War II soon followed. When Boston-area servicemen headed overseas, they received the new cookies in care packages, lovingly baked with rationed sugar and mailed from their families back home. They shared the blessing and bounty of this rich comfort food with their newfound buddies in the military, who soon got hooked too.
Families for World Peace
The tin’s artwork reminded me of my dad’s khaki Korean War uniform and the bush tied with yellow ribbons anticipating another sister’s return from the Gulf War. Less than two years after I bought the tin, we planted a veteran’s flag on my daddy’s grave, while my mother kept busy baking cookies.
I will forever find comfort in those images of God’s loving presence in the midst of pain and evil, of fellowship and fun around homemade feasts in times of tension and uncertainty, of the family and friends who sustain us in our worst moments.
So the legacy of this tin passes on in the cookie tradition, the joy of family recipes, and the encouragement they bring in the highs and lows of life. People still send cookies overseas today. “A little comfort food can go a long way,” and our chocolate chip cookies have traveled with us around the world…
– Warming each new home and ministry.
Just yesterday, for a children’s party I cooked loads of comfort food—homemade donuts, pumpkin bread, and…chocolate chip cookies. Chile’s turmoil and chaos in recent weeks have taken a heavy toll on the kids’ sense of peace and security. In a broken and harrowing world, I try to give them sweeter memories.
– Written into books.
Every good story features some food—it’s one of life’s main dishes. Cookies debut in Destiny at Dolphin Bay with Melissa Travis baking for a pair of orphans and continue to show up as biscotti in Coni Belmar’s impromptu taste-of-Italy dinner (Swan Dive). Even in the most recent Anchor at Alcázar Reef, Valeria Serrano begs cookies off an American missionary in Spain.
– Wished for the next generation.
“Chocolate chips cookies are like duct tape—they fix everything,” someone has said. In war and peace—in the worst of times and the best of times—let’s combine love and cookies to serve up comfort in one of the ways we can.
Like to share your favorite comfort food? Or a favorite cookie memory? “Make cookies, not war.”