By Rosalind Margulies
Everyone loves a fresh-baked cookie, and this recipe, originally my grandmother’s, bakes a great batch, even with all the necessary substitutions. These are a really nostalgic treat for me—just one bite takes me back to the day me and Dan took Noah, who couldn’t have been more than three or four at the time, to the aquarium at Point Pleasant Beach. (Not sure how many of my readers remember aquarium—I might be revealing my age here, ha!)
We had a little dog then, a white poodle mix named Milkshake (a kind of dairy-based dessert). In my memory of that day, Milkshake is there, but dogs weren’t allowed in places like aquariums, so I guess that can’t be right. I’ve been mixing things like that up recently, which I know they’re saying is one of the long-term effects of the nutrient deficiencies so many of us struggle with these days (a tip: lately I’ve been letting one of my cast iron pans “steep” in my water ration before I drink it for an extra hit of iron. I believe this has helped a bit with the fatigue and dizziness I mentioned in my last post—if you’re dealing with similar issues, I recommend trying this out), so it’s difficult to be sure. That day only exists in my head now—so I guess if I want Milkshake in the aquarium, I might as well put her there.
Anyway, we spent the whole day in the aquarium, looking at all the beautiful fish. Noah was very interested in the sharks—that was his favorite animal, sharks—but what I remember best was the touch tank. The touch tank was a pool in the aquarium with an open top where, like the name suggests, you could reach in and touch the animals. There were crabs and stingrays and tiny sharks, harmless animals that didn’t mind being picked up and petted. I have dreams about that touch tank, even now. The tank was very shallow, no more than a foot and a half deep, but in my dreams I swim in it. I use the touch tank like a hot tub (a type of small pool full of warm water people used to soak in). I bathe in the touch tank.
I scrub myself with an epaulette shark.
Afterwards, we had a small picnic on the beach with sandwiches and fruit and, of course, a batch of these cookies. (I clearly remember Milkshake stealing one out of Noah’s hand!) These were Dan’s favorite, though Noah did prefer my shortbread (recipe here). Traditionally they are made with chocolate chips, but I decided to omit them from this recipe as chocolate is so hard to come by nowadays, and I don’t think any substitution compares. If you’re lucky enough to have some dried fruit to spare, you could consider adding a half-cup or so, but besides that, this recipe only utilizes ingredients you’d find in most basic ration packages. Usually I prefer to regrind my ration flour, as it’s so coarse, but I find that the texture actually helps make these denser and more like the cookies I remember from the “Beforetimes.”
Of course, some people will consider this (as well as most of my recipes or anything even mildly fun, LOL) an unwise use of rations, but for me at least, the sentimental value I gain from preparing these treats—and the opportunity to connect with my old life that this process affords—is more than worth going to bed hungry for a night or two. My memories are the most important thing in my life now, and almost anything that helps preserve and enhance them is justifiable. (Though I’ll be honest, lately I’ve felt like I haven’t needed much help accessing old memories. For whatever reason, many of them have taken on a strange immediacy. The memory of the touch tank, for instance—no matter where I am now, I can close my eyes, and I’m dipping my hands into that water again. Water the same temperature as the humid, swimming pool scented air, only thicker; it’s hard to tell where it begins. My hands graze the sandpaper back of a stingray. My fingertips slip off the knobbly, slimy spines of a sea urchin. Isn’t it strange, hard and slimy at the same time? If I look a bit to the left I’ll see Noah’s little arm halfway gone in the water.
The ocean is right there.)
I wanted to say that I really appreciate all the comments I get, and that I read every single one, even if I don’t respond to them all. Things like that seem to take an awful lot out of me lately. (Many mornings I wake up to find myself with no motivation to even take my allotted hour outdoors, and if you know me, you know how much I used to enjoy that.) Some of you share your stories, and it’s very comforting to know that so many of us have experienced so many of the same things. This little community we’ve created has been endlessly valuable to me, and I hope it is for all of you as well.
Chocolate Chip-less Cookies
1 cup flour
⅛ cup nutrient powder
¼ cup fruit sauce preserves (apple offers the most neutral flavor)
1 powdered egg
3-5 drops of sweetener
¾ cup water
½ cup chopped dried fruit (optional)
In a large bowl, mix flour, nutrient powder, and powdered egg.
In a separate bowl, mix water, sweetener, and fruit sauce.
Combine the liquid and dry ingredients. Add in dried fruit if using. Do not overmix!
Bake at 400° for 10-12 minutes. If unable to access an oven, these can be made over low heat on the stove or over a fire.
Recipe serves one.