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Food And Loathing : Cookie Monster

March 18, 1993|LYNDA BARRY

No offense to my mother, but she did invent the worst cookies of all time. And the thing about it was, she did it on purpose.

She invented them the summer she had the nasty sweet tooth, the wicked sweet tooth, the Evil Genie of a sweet tooth that commanded her to drive the Rambler screaming down Cheesty Boulevard to the A&P every night right at closing and then pound on the glass doors the manager was trying to lock.

"We are closed!" he mouths through the glass.

"I will kill you!" she mouths back.

He gives up and she comes back to the car with three packages. A box of Sunshine Hydrox sandwich cookies for the three piranhas in the back seat, a box of Van de Kamp's Gingerbread Windmills to hide in her padlocked closet for the next day, and Archway Peanut Butter Jumbles for . . . well, for "later." For later, after the piranhas are asleep and before her husband comes home late for the 10,000th night in a row.

That was the summer I hated cookies because they ruled our lives. Mom was working a job she hated, and my brothers and I were alone all day with nothing to do but drink green Kool-Aid, watch TV and try to kill each other. This way of life started to give us terrible mental problems until the day we discovered that if we picked the lock on Mom's closet door and then ate all the cookies she was hiding, we'd feel better. But it had to be those cookies. The ones she wanted for herself. Those were the only ones that ever worked.

We had no idea that she needed the cookies to solve mental problems of her own. I wasn't old enough yet to know that when a woman sits in the kitchen alone every night buzz-sawing through an entire package of Peanut Butter Jumbles, she is surely troubled about something.

My brothers and I would polish off her cookies, hear her car pull up and freeze. Her Evil Genie would be commanding her: "Feed Me. Feed Me." We'd hear her footsteps come through the door and we'd go tearing out the back. Our goal was to get off the back porch and past the clothesline pole before she started screaming, because once she saw her cookies were gone her primal fury turned to jet propulsion and if you were any closer than the clothesline, VROOOM!! she already had you by the arm and was already giving you a close-up of her face screaming the most main Mom question: " WHY??!!! WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME??!!!"

If I told her then what I know now, after reading 3 million self-help books and passing 4 million hours in therapy, if I had said, "Well, Mom, eating your cookies is a way of feeding our loneliness and you should take it as a compliment because actually it is a form of missing you." If I'd answered her with that? Her head would have blown off her body like a bottle rocket.

We'd squat hiding in the laurel bushes, watching her have a nervous breakdown on the back porch, and we'd swear to God, with Gingerbread Windmills still on our breath, that we would never steal her cookies again. Ever. Which, like any vow made directly after a miserable urge has been completely satisfied, seemed actually possible . It seemed actually possible until the miserable urge returned and stuck its big ugly hand in our weak little puppet heads and opened our mouths as wide as canyons: "Feed Me. Feed Me. Feed Me. Feed me something sweet."

I'm sure Mom was making vows of her own that would last, oh, about 10 minutes, then BLAM ! we'd all be in the car again, screaming down Cheesty Boulevard trying to make it to the A&P before it closed.

All of this stopped the day she invented the world's worst cookie. It was brilliant, really, inventing a cookie all children hated but adults loved. I really have to hand it to her.

She did it by taking a perfectly good bag of Blue Bell Potato Chips and mashing them into tragic shards with a rolling pin, then mixing them into normal oatmeal cookie dough that included an insane amount of nutmeg and two cups of rancid walnuts. Bake at 350 until terrible. Bake at 350 until they are greasy, salty, rancid, nightmarishly sweet food clods that your children cannot eat no matter how hard they try.

Victory! She invented something sweet that was actually going to be there when she came home from work. Victory!

The rest of the summer was hell for my brothers and me. We fought constantly, and no matter what we ate we were never satisfied. Mom's cookies were completely useless to us except for once, when my brother Michael used one to hurl at a berserk dog that got into our yard. BLAM! Yi! Yi! Yi! The dog took off running and Michael shot over to look at the cookie lying in the grass. It looked fine. Undamaged. So he picked it up and put it back in the jar.

I remember watching my youngest brother, Mark, just walking in circles in the kitchen saying, "I can't get full. I can't get full." That's why the tub of Cool Whip that made it into our refrigerator was just a disaster waiting to happen.

Dad brought it home. Cool Whip had just been invented, and he came home from work one night, on time, with two tubs of it in a paper bag.

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