Recipes with Chocolate
The first time I made my sister-in-law chocolate chocolate chip cookies, I hadn’t been sure exactly how. I used what was in the cupboard, cocoa powder, and the cookie recipe inside the Betty Crocker kids cookbook I always made for my students.
And, the ingredients came together, made the most of by previous baking and experience and her appreciation for my effort.
This past week my brother visited. There were certain wants, requests, musings, perhaps, from his family. One of these was the chocolate chocolate chip cookie. Except Starbucks didn’t have any. Not in our city. Not at the airport.
"I can make some. You can take those." I said, except I mostly asked, for fate to smile on me again.
"No." He shook his head. Which made sense. One was not the same effort as dozens.
“I’ll find a recipe,” I messaged her. “One with metric measurements so I’ll be more confident the to bake alone the next time I visit.”
Except something else was already baking.
Preheat the oven.
A warm scent cut through the chill still in not quite spring air. Sweetness wafted around my heart. Not even the recipe, just the image of the chocolate chocolate chip cookie, was enough to open the cupboard of picture book ingredients I had been accumulating since last Passover. A different kind of recipe with chocolate.
Chocolate. We had visited a chocolate workshop, made cute little houses, candies and cars. We had watched a movie that left me feeling the absence of my Mayan coworkers histories that I wanted to fill by using Passover cleaning as an excuse to search for the guipil I had woven for my niece when she was a baby.
But I don’t have the ingredients for a story. I searched for another kind of recipe. I asked.
Mix dry ingredients and set aside.
“How did chocolate arrive in Israel?”
Inquisition. Expulsion. Ingenuity.
My mind wandered back to a previous connection written into my novel in verse.
Migration. Immigration. Crossing the desert. I Googled.
Melt butter. Combine with sugar, egg and vanilla.
“Passover and welcoming the stranger.”
Who is a stranger? Why? Shared threat of extermination.
Combine ingredients. Roll and divide the dough.
“Chocolate for courage”, my dad always said.
Last year's calendar still hangs on my bedroom wall. Yesterday I flipped the page to the month of April. "Be Brave With Your Life". Last April, I was with my family for Passover seeking both vacation and connection. I had chosen chocolate. In my mind I saw the pastel colored melting pieces meant for cocoa bombs. For most of the trip, the chocolate remained wrapped in plastic and tucked inside drawer labeled in masking tape, “chametz”.
Finally, “unleavened in Hebrew”.
A search, every crack of every cupboard and shelf. Wheat and water. All the places, even the ones found on accident. That is where crumbs, or even the dream of crumbs, may be found. That is what a story needs. An accidental, sometimes with subconscious intent, of fermentation.
Food is about connection. The act of eating is one of receiving what someone else has to offer made from the ingredients available, often unique, to their shelves. Chocolate was my Passover picture book to write with the ingredients already stored. The chocolate chocolate chip cookies would need to wait, but the story did not.