My teen idol wore shorts and a headband. No, it was not Richard Simmons but a blond Swedish god. A tennis god, Bjorn Borg. Everything about him appealed to my shy, self-conscious teenage self; his lean physique, his flowing blond locks, those piercing blue eyes, his deadly two-handed backhand and his graceful moves on the court. Because of him I took up tennis and found I was pretty good at it, not like soccer (I hate running, especially into people) or volleyball (not good for pianists as I once sprained a finger when the ball hit my hand at a bad angle and I couldn’t play piano for two weeks).
I haven’t had such a disheartening day in a long time. Lately I’ve been asked to audition more and acting is something that I’ve done in the past, but have taken a break from it to focus on other pursuits. I had prepared for this audition well and by the time it was my turn to go in I had been stewing in the waiting room with the other actors for well over an hour. It didn’t go the way I had hoped and I left feeling like a failure. Once I got home I put on some Harry Connick Jr. music, a mood lifter for sure, and then headed to the kitchen to make these baked treats.
These chocolate chip cookies are the perfect indulgence to soothe my soul without having to say “I shouldn’t have” afterwards. For our followers, you might recall that I recently confessed to breaking a five day liquid fast by eating half a bag of Chip Ahoy cookies, not my proudest moment. Since then, I have made thousands of cookies and have a few “go to” recipes. Lately, the avocado is having its moment in the spotlight. So much so that global demand for this once exotic fruit, (yes, it is a fruit) has skyrocketed. No longer is it just for California rolls and quacamole, but it is topping quinoa salads, sandwiches, as well as being grilled, made into fries, used for chocolate mousse and now baked into cookies!
What is your earliest breakfast memory? Mine goes back to my childhood in Hong Kong when I stayed for the weekend at my grandmother’s home and shared her breakfast. She was born in Japan, hence, she served me pickled daikon, soft-boiled egg, toast, fruit and then a cup of tea with a generous amount of condensed milk. I always looked forward to those weekends. That hot cup of, beyond sweet, creamy flavourful tea still fortifies my soul when I think of it. And I still use her technique to make the perfect soft-boiled egg. I suppose I looked forward to those weekends because it was just the two of us. She really made me feel special.
When I think about the people who have influenced me in my interest in food, I have to think back to when I was a teenager. You may be thinking my Home Economics teacher, but you would be wrong. We were only allowed to cook after we passed all the modules on food knowledge ie. the four food groups. I was so bored with the theory that, by the time I got to cook, I was only able to make Jello chocolate pudding which is barely considered cooking and that was on the last day of the term, so I never even got to make the second recipe, a grilled cheese sandwich. Who came up with this curriculum, Pee Wee Herman?
Then one weekend, a very special lady came to visit us from England. Mrs. Fisher was the wife of my Mom’s piano teacher when she had studied music in London. I loved her accent, her gentle manner, and her elegance. But above of all, it was her passion for food and sharing it that made an indelible impression upon me. She taught cooking as a form of therapy to the mentally challenged, and gave me a crash course on the weekend of her visit. What stood out was the lesson on baking bread.
Shortly after she left I had a sleepless night and decided to exercise my newly acquired skills. I looked up a recipe for cinnamon buns. And, in the stillness of the night surrounded by silence I handled the smooth mound of dough, turning it and pressing the heel of my hand into the yielding dough. I repeated this movement over and over until it felt like a chant performed by my hands. The art of baking is far superior to yoga in my mind!