Sunday night Zoe was sitting in front of the stove monitoring progress. “I like to watch them bake,” she had said and flopped down on the hardwood floor. Earlier we had all (the youngest included) made a deal – eat the soup I’m gonna (lovingly) make with those straight-from-the-farm veggies we got from the market on Saturday, then we’ll make some chocolate chip cookies. In the land of flaky croissant and picturesque little cakes, it’s still the warm essence of the chocolate chip cookie they are sometimes looking for. After steaming bowls of soup, they were tossing Brittany butter, pepitas du chocolat, sugar onto the counter and hunting for the white flour.
Three girls in the kitchen. We were in need of a ‘coalescing’ moment, I had decided earlier that day as I took the youngest over to the 15th to her friends house, as I (unsuccessfully) tried to persuade the teenager Zoe to go with me to the Street Food festival in the 3rd, as I eventually found myself sitting on the grass alone watching the French families in the Jardin du Laboure on a pitch-perfect autumn afternoon.
Andrew was traveling a lot this fall for business and had flown off 2 days ago, it was the first year of British high school for Zoe, a new international school for our youngest; we’d recently met a lot of new people, but we had also said goodbye to several families that would be missed. There was a lot going on.
The youngest was saying, “there better be white flour” in the tone she took most days – self-confident and exasperated. At ten, she had honed it to perfection. I was glad I had loosened the nutritional morals a few months back, and there was a bag of ‘regular’ flour. I set it out. They were reminiscing. Zoe was saying, “I remember when Mom made cookies for the school bake sale. She used buckwheat flour. They were brown and nobody bought any.” That made us laugh then gasp in horror. “Did I do that?” I asked them. “Really?” They were taking turns whisking the big bowl. They nodded their heads in exaggerated unison, like I did that kind of thing every day and how they had suffered. They insisted on licking the spoons, then dipping spoons into the batter, so it was luck there was a pan-full at all to put into the oven.
Zoe was calling from the kitchen floor, “We have a problem here.” I was in front of the washing machine trying to start a load and wasn’t paying any attention. “The cookies are sliding,” she was saying again. I was pouring in detergent. The cookies were sliding? That didn’t make sense. “Sliding?” I skewed my brow. I went back to the kitchen and bent over the window. The cookies seemed to be hovering over a butter layer, like a car in the rain, hydro-planing toward the oven door. I grabbed the mitts to prevent a pile up, heat escaping as I opened the oven door and tilted the sheet just in time. The cookies went sliding back the other way.
By now, we were all in the kitchen alert to the present danger of cookie avalanches, Zoe kept her post by the oven door. Sure enough we had to do the tilt thing several more times before they appeared to be done. We decided it must have been the missing baking powder that we couldn’t find in Paris, or the variability of the French oven or maybe we’d measured the butter wrong. Something. Whatever it was, it ended with us gathered around the counter over a warm plate, the smell of chocolate as we bit into warm cookies.
“Hmmm. Like cake almost,” I said my mouth full. The girls were chewing. “Yeah…cakies,” Zoe said, her ability to sum things up, “these aren’t cookies, they’re cakies.” We all snickered… cakies, good one. Later that night as I was cleaning up, I couldn’t stop laughing out loud at the image of the cookies vibrating on their plane of butter, slowly sliding together. Le Cakies.