Sunday Lifestyle

A love affair with cookies

LOVE LUCY - The Philippine Star

I have yet to meet a cookie I did not quite like in some way. Not because I have been favorably spared by the cookie gods from the average person’s quota of requisite misses; but there’s really been a single heartbreak between me and any cookie. See, I am drawn to them because of the pretty tin cans they come in. I find them irresistible, and once empty I use them to hold all sorts of things — craft materials, sewing essentials, accessories, extra buttons that come with new clothing, letters, all sorts of odds and ends. As such, there are many kinds of pretty in my drawers.

And so they have paraded into my life — a happy stream of varied shapes and forms and many different tastes, some more delicious than others, a handful quite unforgettable, each holding the promise of the many happy things that can happen when butter, flour and sugar unite. And always, whatever the shortcomings of each, whether it was too sweet or not sweet enough, too soft or too tough, too much or too little of this or that, always there was a redeeming factor, something to love about it anyway. Often, that redeeming factor was the pretty container. And if delicious cookie also happened to come packaged in a gorgeous container, then hey, what a happy day.

Richard’s Lola Lydia had a box of Whitman’s candies that she used to hold loose photos. Looking at her go through those photos in that box was a scene straight out of a beautiful film — with her soft, white curls, her jersey top, that smile. I choose to remember her tenderly that way. She loved to puff cigarettes (even at 80-plus years old), she had all these honest little stories that only old people are brave enough to tell, and she made delicious Irish fruitcake and a recycled chicken dish she called Chicken Maryland. The latter was basically leftover fried chicken cooked again with some tomato-based sauce. But it was so good we actually would fry chicken to make into Chicken Maryland.

I have this red and white striped tin that once upon a time held Peppermint Bark. Passed on by a dear friend, I am told it is a special present from the family that makes greeting cards. I forget now if it is Hallmark, but the peppermint bark is homemade and the family makes it every Christmas to give as presents. It is special that way, tasted special, and as it sits on a shelf in my closet now, it is more than just a tin can. It reminds me of that one magical night in a friend’s beautiful home when a group of us, after coming home from a concert that just did not live up to the hype and our expectations, gathered for a nightcap. We stayed up till the wee hours of the morning, laughing so much (about what I no longer remember for sure), but there was lots of good food and wine. And that peppermint bark. I nibbled on it endlessly. 

I look at that empty can and I think of that night with a happy smile that always borders on a giggle. We were much younger then, somehow life was simpler, and there seemed to be more time for good friends to get together. I miss those days, I sometimes long for how carefree they were. That same night, I remember there was also a beautiful box of Don Julio, and I still have that now. It is still empty, but I know I can fill it up easily with my unfinished little projects (and there are many). I so wish I kept the empty bottle, as it would make a lovely vessel for the native vinegar the farmers in my hometown concoct.

What else do I have? Lots of Marks & Spencer tin cans. They make some of the prettiest and the best, plus their shortbread cookies are wonderful in every way that matters. I look at them and I remember Hong Kong, and all that I love about it. I remember long walks and the beautiful harbor and going home to a hotel room where, in a nook, all the tin cans accumulate as the days go by, alongside cheese and chips, fruits, chocolates and nuts. After all, what is a vacation if you can’t nibble guiltlessly at midnight, right?

Like many of the other things we all own, the tin cans I collect tell a story — some deep, others funny, sentimental maybe, but a lot I now have simply because they are just pretty. Maybe after the last cookie is done, what I will eventually put inside it will be the story it will one day tell.

For now I am just glad that, more and more, cookies and tin cans go together and if they cannot always be a happy match, each can in fact redeem the other. And so my love affair with them continues — happily ever after.


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