Oh, hay! I just discovered a bag of forgotten cookies in the freezer! These were from my sad Insufficient Flour Batch of chocolate chip cookies, proof that I cannot read a recipe and have a conversation at the same time. (Disaster was nearly averted when, on the phone to Tizzy, I stopped myself from adding baking powder rather than baking soda to the pancakes. Or was it the other way round? I always get those two mixed up. Isn't white powder, white powder? Eh.)
This time I was chagrined to find that forgetting 1/3 a cup of flour makes chocolate chip cookies abandon all inhibitions about prescribed "cookie shape," spilling out of their little teaspoon-sized lumps (1-2 inches apart) in a liquid dough interpretation of Free Love, intermingling with every neighboring cookie they could reach within the 8 minute bake time. "That ain't right," I said to myself when I opened the oven door, but with a confidence mined from a hundred previous successful attempts at this recipe, I put them on the stove top to cool, perhaps hoping that they would somehow reform back into a tidy, recognizable shape. Alas, after a few minutes I had produced a new dessert, "Brittle Chocolate Doily," which quickly turned into "Brittle Chocolate Dust" as I attempted to pry them off the pan with all the ease of pulling melted wax from a shag carpet, chipping a spatula, scaring the dog, and showering stray bits of failed cookie into the fake flowers on the other side of the kitchen.
Which is not to say that a little chaos while cooking is a bad thing. Quite the contrary; I strive for it. Chaos is the invisible ingredient on all of my recipe cards, the secret element that makes cooking, in my opinion, worthwhile. When family and friends request a favorite recipe - one that I have already made the same way over and over and over again - I get the same sinking feeling as though I have just arrived at a party to hear, "Oh, why don't you sit down and sing that song for us? You know, the one you sang last time?" where all enjoyment is suffocated by sheer expected repetition. Blaaah. The boredom is enough to incite one to...I don't know...substitute roasted mealworms for walnuts in the brownies.
I best delight in my own private cooking experiments, when only I have to suffer whatever becomes of it. Recent discoveries - Coffee does not work well in a salmon marinade. Any type of non-sugary breakfast cereal can turn into an excellent breading. Oysters thrive in stews. Burnt collared green stems smell like cigarettes. Grinding cloves in the Cuisinart results in a permanent frosted look on the plastic. Orange juice does not substitute for milk.
The ingredient ad nauseam of late has been apples, as my premier backyard apple tree has been showered my larder with a constant supply of them. Buckets and buckets of them. I have a tag team effort with the local crows, begrudged though I am with the arrangement, that lets them peck at the apples on the high branches until they come down, and then I pick them up and salvage the undamaged bit. It's very Rabbit Hill, Saint Francis, "There is enough for all," I suppose, if only the crows weren't so blastedly cocky about it. For a while I tried to stave them off entirely, but after my father and I spent an afternoon with a ladder, a pole, a hard hat, and a catcher's mitt, whacking around at bunches of apples with increasing frustration, bringing down showers of several head-bashers at a time (and ducking for cover) while yelling at the dog not to put bite marks in all of them, and at one point climbing barefooted (me) into the upper reaches of the tree with no luck, I resolved to let the crows take their share in exchange for my sanity and the luxury of picking fractional apples off the ground, lazy sod that I am.
Which is a long way of saying, kiddies, prune your fruit trees while they're still young.
The "magic rice bowl" flood of apples has been kept in check by my barrage of apple-related recipes, transforming them into applesauce, apple cookies, apple juice, smoked apples, baked apples, apple ball (where I roll an apple and the dog chases and devours it), and the traditional apple pie, a traditional recipe that I pilfered off of Allrecipes.com. (Grandma Ople's, so it says, and it's marvelous.) But, chaos theory forever presiding, even my apple pie always has an indeterminate of spices thrown in from the spice rack.
Which reminds me, another very important discovery: Many different flavors taste great in a cup of coffee. Sage is not one of them. The jury is still awaiting a second opinion.