Post-post note! The day after this went live I was featured on America’s Test Kitchen for their Blogger Spotlight series! A few years ago my dear friend Thom turned me on to ATK and Cooks Illustrated in general, and I’ve come to refer to this incredibly knowledgeable source for any base recipe that I NEED to get right on the first try: basically they take a recipe and dissect it to the core, and then explain to you WHY certain combinations worked and others didn’t. I was honored, the day after my birthday, to be spotlighted by this incredibly well-known publication, especially with such an intro by their social media intern Belle Cushing.
Last night around midnight my dad woke me up to crack a huge bottle of champagne and have a chat in the backyard hot tub. I had literally just turned 31 – the age my dad was when he had me. We’ve renamed this occasion the “Better Champagne Birthday”. Climbing back into bed later after a text from my mom and a phone call with a good friend, I started mulling on the love in my life.
When I was 19, Ruark was the first man (of no familial relation) to say “I love you” to me. Or, at least, the first one of significance. It was New Years Eve of 2000/2001, and we were dressed formally and dancing at my parents’ house. Since then I’ve remembered every first “I love you” – where I was, if something as simple as making crepes inspired it, and how it felt physically inside of me to say and hear those words with someone for the first time. I remember this with all the men I’ve dated and all the women who’ve honored me with their friendship, giving their “I love you’s” so freely and fully that they’ve sometimes come for the first time at the end of a text or an email. The older I grow, the more weight those words carry. But a good weight – like a thick quilt in the dead of winter or stepping into a cool pool of water on a blistering summer day.
This week I was gifted with a new “I love you”. “I love you very much”, specifically. It caught me off guard. It was delicate, and genuine, and the kind of gift you want to wrap up and tuck somewhere safe.
I said “I love you” right back to this friend – and meant it – and the evening continued on, those words spoken and then left, sweetly, in the air. And then the next day they troubled me. And then the following day I found myself deeply introspective.
So I lay in bed in the first few hours of my 31st year thinking of “I love you”:
The way my father tells me – over and over again – that no one will ever love me as much as he does. The way my mother and I say it as we hug tight. The way my siblings and I say it easily and fully and often. The way Ruark and I end every phone call with it, still, though we’ve not been a couple for three years now. The way Lindsey’s “love you’s” have seen me through 15 years of growing pains. The way Abby ends a text with, “love you darlin”. Or Lyndsey’s “I love you’s” are so full and rich I feel her inside my heart though she’s hundreds of miles away. The way I now have to raise my voice to tell my grandparents I love them so that they can hear it. Or how I can say “I love you” over and over to Mitra, who doesn’t need words to know I do.
I was told recently that old souls say “I love you” first. I rarely have that courage, though I often say that them my head while holding tight or keeping a gaze. Once I’ve said them once, I want to say them again, and in any moment that feels significant.
But I think we often let fear stop us from expressing our love. Or at least I do. Not surface love or lust or social propriety, but real love and affection and attachment. Do we do this for protection or self-preservation? Or because once someone’s said “I love you” we immediately fear the day they’ll go away and we’ll be left to wonder what happened to that love?
And where does that love go once a relationship has ended? If we haven’t seen someone for a month, a year, a decade… where is that love?
Is it possible to love someone who said goodbye to me many years ago or to love someone who I’ve known for only a few months?
I guess the older you get and the more you experience, the more there is to chew on at 1:30 in the morning.
But, today, for me, love is everywhere. It’s in the people who, at some point on my birthday, will think of me with love. It’s in listening to the song that Ruark wrote me for my birthday last year. In wearing the pink chef coat that Erika gave me today. In flipping through the “Cook” Book that Dalane made me of all the menus and quirky texts I’ve sent him since starting my chef job out east.
It’s in Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. The new “I love you very much” person’s favorite sweet. I love making people’s favorites for their birthdays – cheesecake, Snickerdoodles, apple pies, brownies… they’ve been my way to say “I love you” when celebrating someone’s birth. Today, as I transcribe and clean and ponder on the conjunction of a few harmless, full words, I’m thinking “love” with butter, flour, and chocolate.
Chewy Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 18 cookies
Note: these are adapted from America’s Test Kitchen / Cooks Illustrated, which I find incredibly reliable when you want to nail something specific. They’re chewy and soft, but very sweet. In general I love subtle sweets, so while these are perfect for those who want bakery or Toll House-type cookies, don’t say I didn’t warn you if, like me, you prefer them with a bit of heft from nuts or oatmeal or almond butter. Sometimes love is baking outside your box.
- 10.5 oz gluten-free flour blend (mine was 6 oz brown rice flour, 3 oz. tapioca flour and 1.5 oz millet flour, more or less)
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 12 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or white sugar)
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate baking chips (regular or oversized, as I used here)
Preheat oven to 325°. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment.
Measuring out the flours in a medium bowl. Add xanthan gum, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment (or hand mixer), beat sugars and butter until thoroughly combined. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth and slightly fluffy. On low speed, add flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Scoop into balls (about 1/4 cup or smaller, depending on how you like your cookies). Crack a ball in half and then fit the smooth sides together, so the rough dough from the middle makes the edges rougher and gives more surface area for texture. Place at least 3″ apart on baking sheets.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating halfway through, until edges are slightly crispy but centers are still soft.
Cool on baking sheets (this will help the insides continue to cook but the edges stop before getting too crispy).
Share with many “I love you”s.