I thought this one had all the ingredients to be a winner.
Kate carefully positioned the cookies on the plate, displaying their tempting shades of golden brown. Surely, this is the batch that will do it, she thought. She’d wanted to get to know Mark, the handsome newcomer in unit 3B, but one of them was always in a hurry when they met at the mailboxes. Mrs. Mendes, her downstairs neighbor had introduced them at their condo association potluck. Mark had eaten six of her peanut butter cookies and mentioned they reminded him of his grandmother’s cookies. Except they might be missing a little vanilla.
It was a serendipitous revelation. Kate had seized the opportunity to invite him over for taste testings. She’d vowed to duplicate the recipe to his satisfaction. Mrs. Mendes had walked away, shaking her head and chuckling to herself.
This was batch number nine. She’d made progress. At Mark’s suggestion, she had dipped the fork into sugar instead of flour when making the checkerboard pattern on top. She’d tried chunky, smooth, super-chunky, and organic peanut butter. She’d used brown sugar, raw sugar, honey, and artificial sweeteners. About the only thing she hadn’t done was throw salt over her shoulder while crossing her fingers.
Each recipe was close, but not quite right, according to Mark and his overly sensitive taste buds. She was starting to get a little suspicious. Just how well could he remember the flavors of his childhood? But he’d quelled her suspicions with funny stories about Grandma Sylvie and her baking mishaps. For a woman who burned so many cakes and pies, her cookies were amazingly memorable.
“If these aren’t right, I quit!” she said out loud. Well, not really. She ducked into the bedroom to brush her hair and check her makeup. She’d already called Mark and invited him up for the latest tasting.
The doorbell rang and she welcomed him with a broad smile.
“I hope you’re hungry, because I’m sure these are going to do it.”
“I brought my own milk this time. Doesn’t seem fair that I keep drinking up yours as well as eating all your cookies.” Mark hefted the half-gallon container and stepped into her kitchen. Helping himself to two glasses from the cupboard, he poured them each one and sat at the table.
“Here’s to Grandma Sylvie; may she rest in peace.”
Kate clinked her glass to Mark’s toast and sipped the milk as she watched him take his first bite. He chewed thoughtfully, a slight smile on his lips.
“What’s different about this batch?” he asked.
“I’ll tell you after you tell me it’s right.”
“Will you hate me if I say it’s not quite there yet?”
“Then it’s perfect.” He grinned at her, brushed his hair out of his eyes and her heart skipped a beat.
“Is it really? I take it back, I won’t hate you, just tell me the truth.”
“Well, it’s almost perfect.” He chewed with a thoughtful expression on his face.
“I think… maybe just a smidgen of … chocolate? Grandma’s cookies were mostly peanut butter, but I remember a hint of chocolate.”
Kate’s heart fell. Chocolate? That was a pretty big ingredient to forget. She’d been so hopeful for these. She forced a smile.
“Okay, I’ll have another try in a few days. I’ve got a busy week at work.”
“What’s going on?”
They chatted for a while, sharing stories about their jobs. Kate worked in real estate; Mark was a third grade teacher.
When only a few cookies remained on the plate, Mark stood.
“Well, I better get out of your hair. Thanks for trying out all the cookie recipes. I’m sure the oatmeal will make them just like Grandma’s.”
“Oatmeal? I thought you said they were missing chocolate?”
“Did I say oatmeal? I meant chocolate. Grandma Ruthie’s cookies were peanut butter chocolate.”
“Wait a minute. You said your grandmother’s name was Sylvie. Now it’s Ruthie?”
“One of my grandmother’s was Sylvie, the other was Ruthie. And they both made killer cookies for me. Sylvie’s were peanut butter; Ruthie’s were oatmeal. Yeah, that’s it.”
Kate narrowed her eyes and appraised the tall man standing before her.
“Are you sure? I suddenly have a feeling that I’ve been conned into doing an awful lot of baking.”
Mark grinned, sun lines crinkling at the corners of his mouth.
“Are you saying you tricked me into baking cookies for you?” Kate didn’t know whether to laugh or pretend to be angry.
“Yes. I’m sorry. I’ve been wanting to get to know you for a while. When we were chatting at the potluck and I mentioned how great your cookies were, it seemed so easy to compare them to ‘Grandma’s.’ And then you offered to try and duplicate her recipe. Getting to see you every few days, not to mention eating your awesome cookies, was too good to pass.”
Kate decided two could play this game. “And how do mine measure up?”
“Yours are amazing. Neither of my grandmothers bakes. Sylvie buys me vanilla wafers. And Ruthie has been on a diet since 1975.”
“And Sylvie’s not ‘resting in peace’?”
“No. She’s playing canasta down in the rec room.”
“Mrs. Mendes is your Grandma Sylvie?”
“Afraid so. Am I forgiven?” His hopeful expression melted her, but she continued her questions.
“So all the flour and sugar and peanut butter were for nothing?”
“Not at all. We’ve gotten to know each other. That’s something, isn’t it?”
She smiled. “It certainly is.”
“Sylvie always tells me that if I ever find a woman who can bake, I should cultivate her friendship. That I’ll be the richer for it. And that’s been true. But as good as your culinary skill is, I’ve enjoyed the time we’ve spent together even more.”
“Me too,” Kate confessed.
“While I’m coming clean, I should add that I make a killer pesto sauce. Let me fix you dinner as payment for all the cookies I’ve eaten.”
“Oh, I don’t think one dinner will be enough. Did I mention how many hours I’ve spent mixing dough and standing over a hot oven?”
He grinned. “I’ll fix you dinner every week. If you’ll bring dessert.”
She pretended to consider it. “Well, I do have a pretty good recipe for peanut butter cookies.”
“Which happen to be my favorite.”
He extended his hand and she took it.