Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Can't Cook, Won't Cook?

So, it’s that time of the month again – Book Club and thus today I’ve found myself in a position mostly alien to me; knee deep in cookie dough.

I rarely don the apron (Cath Kidston btw) and I’m more Carlos Solis in the baking department than Bree Van De Kamp. But for Book Club, I have to make the effort and face my kitchen fears.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’d get thrown out if I turned up with boxed cookies, and that’s really not far from the truth. And this I learnt from bitter experience.

Three years ago, after living here for a couple of months, I joined my local chapter of the national moms organisation, Mothers & More. It’s a great group to be part of and gave me the gateway to meeting most of the women I now call friends. But there are unspoken rules to our gatherings. Rules that don’t appear on the mission statement.

Food etiquette.

One of the first evening events I went to was their Book Club. (I hadn’t read the book, but was assured that didn’t matter, as gossip and eating were the main order of the night.) All I had to do was bring a dessert or appetizer to share and show up. Not knowing what kind of treat to bring, I went to a local gourmet market and picked out a sugar laden box of Christmas cookies. (Twas the season n all.)

When I arrived at the host’s house and went into the kitchen, I saw the counter was bursting with edible delights. There was spinach dip and crackers (home-made) brownies (home-made) Molten chocolate cakes (home-made) peanut butter cream pie (home-made) mini meatloaves (home-made) cheese n ham spirals (home-made) oatmeal raisin cookies (home-made) and chocolate chip muffins (home-made).

My heart sank as I sheepishly added my boxed cookies to the mix.

Conversation flowed and everyone started to fill their plates and the wine was poured. I starred in awe as the host laid out little Christmas themed napkins, plates and knives and forks. Even the spoons had Santa on them. Clearly, coming from the UK where a gathering means you are lucky to get a plain white paper plate and a plastic fork, this scene left me gob smacked. (I have since come to realise that this sort of spread complete with holiday themed cutlery (silverware) and matching napkins is completely normal in a US home.)

I thought I had come to her party-of-the-year, not an informal discussion on the Bronte sisters.

The women made me feel really welcome and we to-ed and fro-ed from the kitchen refilling throughout the evening. I quickly realised my mistake in having dinner beforehand.

However, every time I went into the kitchen, I noticed my lurid green Christmas tree cookies remained untouched. I didn’t fancy their chances against this gourmet feast. Three hours passed and the oatmeal raisin cookies were devoured. The spinach dip was all gone and the molten cakes left us with gooey fingers.

Still my cookies remained sealed.

At the end of the night, everyone takes home what’s left of the dishes they bring. I was the only one to bring home exactly what I’d entered the house with. I was crestfallen. I’d failed in the bring-a-dish-to-pass department.

So Him Downstairs had a Christmas cookie in his lunchbox every day after, until they eventually ran out around Chinese New Year! (He reported, that they were, “OK-ish.”)

My lesson was learnt. Though shall never bring store-bought goods to Book Club.

And so the monthly book meetings leave me all of a tizzy in two ways. First, I have to finish the blooming book on time (this is fine when I enjoy it and can race through it, but when we’re doing some sleep-inducing American historical ‘masterpiece’ I barely open the front cover.) And secondly, it means I have to get the Cath out.

The Cath (my apron) and I have become better friends since that first Book Club. And actually she always brings a smile to my face when I wear her, because one of my best friends in the UK sent it to me when I moved Stateside. She said I needed something to wear whilst I baked all the apple pie I was surely going to, now I was a desperate housewife! She was right. Sort of.

So here’s this month’s finished product, hot off the pan so to speak. My very own chocolate chip cookies, Mom/Mum style. (Not exactly all round and perfect, but they're home-made!) No so impressive to all you culinary queens out there, granted. But to me and my little family, they are a miracle worth photographing. Plus they’ll keep me in Book Club for the next month at least.

And Valley Girl I have a tip for you. If you do move to America, whatever you do, make sure you have a decent oven!

Now, who wants a cookie?


  1. Well, I'm suitably impressed. Cath Kidston as well, you can take the girl out of England but...

    We have our book group meetings in our local pub accompanied by pink fizzy, champers if we're flush and pinot grigio blush if we're not

    But we really do read the bookd too, honest !

  2. Ha! Thanks for the tip, Mom/Mum. Seeing as I have never baked a cookie in my life I fear the whole thing could be a bit of an uphill struggle...I would have to enlist the Doctor, who makes a good Virginian apple pie learned at his American grandmother's knee!

  3. I MUST say the cookies do look delicious! However, I will be censoring the site from my boys in case they get any ideas...

  4. Me me me me me
    (I have my hand up, straining at the shoulder)

    And what was the book?

  5. Im so proud of you Mom/Mum...cookie baking! I would have been there too with the shop bought jobbies! Theres something a little Stepford Wives with the whole American bake thing whereas here it's all about... "oh you bought the Asda Extra Special biscuits...very nice but not as nice as M & S!" Same issue - different variation!

    and yes please... send me one. Perhaps I could pass it of to Small Child as one of my own!

  6. Bugger that!!!

    I like the UK style of you invite someone over to dinner, and they are happy with take away. lol.

    Hey MOM/MUM nice to meet you. You left a comment on my blog awhile ago, but didn't leave your URL (damn wordpress!) Just found you in Domestic Diva's comment box!

    *waves hello*

  7. Thank you. Where in the States are you? I am ment to be going there in January, it was supposed to be this month but the trial is on and there is nothing that will keep me from that.

    I was also ment to be moving to America in 2010 too..but I'm not really sure what my future holds now. I guess time will tell.

    (I hate cooking, so I applaud you)

  8. ag - EXACTLY! I like the sound of your pink stuff!!

    nvg - The doctor will therefore leap to your rescue as you initiate yourself with new mom friends. Or else, just buy Betty Vrocker quick bake cookie mix, even I can't mess that up, so am sure you will be fine!

    tw - Thank you. they only come but once a month and right now they're all gone. My boys got there first!

    tara - Ok here, catch! D'ya get one?
    (Were you the class swot always going, "pick me! pickk me!" whilst sticking your hand up in the air as high as it would reach????)
    this months book btw was Twilight, Stephanie Meyer. Has that vampire craze reached England yet?

    tg - Why thank you! gosh I miss M&S, but am fighting becoming a Stepford wife as much as I can. I haven't the hair for it anyhow!

    trixie - LOL! Thanks for tracking me down! Nice to see you.I love that UK style of dinner invitations too. I can get away with it with my MUM friends here, but with the MOM friends you either cook yourself or call the caterers in. Seriously.

    rj - Hello you. I'm in the Midwest. Southeast Michigan. It's not too bad. Where might you be headed?

  9. No no no! Don't give in to homemade baking fascists! Resist! Buy from the blooming store and then dust with icing sugar. It's called "Faux homemade".

  10. Well done! They look delish! Have you been to Christmas cookie swap over here yet? Talk about pressure!!

    And, yes just what was the book?

  11. Hi mom/mum I have to hold me hand up too! I do make some mean Chocolate Cakes (Delia Smith) and the odd risotto but not much else. Hubbie is a fantastic cook so I am spoilt. An almost resolution is to blog about conquering my fear of cooking! Good on you...the pressure to cook something must be fairly INTENSE!

  12. me hand? I've gone all Geordie and why not indeed!

  13. Friends of DH's held a baby shower for me and one came with some very yummy homemade cookies. Not. She bought the refrigerated dough that you slice and bake. Her secret 'ingredient'? Pinch/poke the cookie dough slices a little so you don't get perfectly round cookies and they look homemade!

    I hate potluck things - I usually try to make DH do the cooking as he does it so much better than I do.

  14. For those who've asked - the book we discussed that month was Wuthering Heights. It averaged a 3.5 out of 5 rating...personally I love that book. This month we've just done Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. now that one got a 4.5 and 5out of 5 all round. Except from me...but that's a whole other blog!

  15. If I still go I will be in LA and Florida, possibly Chicago too. Not really sure what's happening though.

    My lil guy and I always said if we won lotto we would go to America and visit all 50 states. If we do, we'll come by for a visit!

  16. How bloody rude of them!

    I'd make some of my special hospitality cookies for them.

    The only real problem is collecting all the ho spit.

  17. I've read reams of blogs about that book (Twilight) and no, the phenomenon hasn't really reached England - unless of course I am really behind the times and have just had my head up jumper all this time.

  18. Hi Ive popped in via MOB's blob... Im on the south coast of England but would dearly love to live in the states, even though them doodles do have some strange way, so I will live that dream through your blob LOL

    You should have one at a time taken one of your own biscuits and without anyone looking stuffed them into your pocket LOL


  19. Mom/Mum - what a sweetie. I think you are doing very well with your home baking. Glad the Cath apron is getting an occasional airing (if only once a month).
    Love competitive bake offs. What era are we living in btw 1950s??
    Why on earth would you buy lurid green chocolate cookies in the first place? Made me chuckle. Even I, who loves all shop bought biscuits would avoid green biscuits. Only peas, broccoli and spinach are meant to be green. Not sweet stuff! You do make me laugh...
    Lots of love

  20. Cookie baking, book clubs???? I am so jealous.

  21. They look absolutely mouthwatering, yum!

    The American do tend to make far more effort than we do in all these home/family things. Look at Halloween, all that trick and treating which although spread over to England, isn't nearly as successful as there! Then there's the Easter bunny business, the Thanks giving business, followed closely by the Christmas business!! And....all those blogs based on making stuff at home, clothes, jams, all sorts of food, pretty paper collarges and heaven knows what else!!
    Lots to live up to!

  22. Well done you. I hope they eat them all! Imagine if you have to take home a full box after all that effort. From the way they look I am sure they will be devoured.

  23. Lovely cookies! I don't think I could stand the stress of the Book Club, but then, I probably wouldn't be able to get a babysitter anyway (apart from MIL, but don't get me started!)

  24. I thought I'd commented - I meant to - but just to say well done, and Delia would be proud. What do you mean, Delia who?

  25. You know, baked goods have a higher level of precision to them than main course and appetiser cooking. Don't feel bad, I don't do that all too often either. But, if you need a good dip or appetiser recipe, I'd totally hook you up.