I’ve been making these chocolate chip cookies for 25 years. These cookies have traveled from my hometown of Troy, Ohio, to my alma mater, Miami University; to Clarksville, Hopkinsville, Villa Park, Chicago, Memphis, New Albany, Columbus, and Indianapolis; they have a connection to Jamaica and Lima, Peru. They have fed hungry tummies, lonely hearts, homeless souls and the sickest of the sick. They show up when the spirit and the stomach need nourishment.
When I was in med school, exhausted and broke but full of dreams, Scott and I had the opportunity to go on a medical mission trip to Jamaica. We were determined to go, but between med school loans, diapers and daycare, we didn’t have two dimes to rub together, let alone the thousands of dimes it would take to buy two plane tickets to Montego Bay. So I started making these cookies. I put two dozen of them in a box and sold them for $5. And people bought them! And then they bought some more. And more. And more! I was studying gross anatomy in ten minute aliquots while the cookies were in the oven. And then people started giving us $5 for the cookies and “a little more” so we could reach our goal. We baked and boxed and delivered thousands of cookies until we had the cash in our little bank account to go on that mission trip together. We saw some desperate folks come to our little pop up clinic. And we examined and treated and loved and prayed for hundreds of patients in the damp tropical mountain clinic. But that trip probably changed us more than it changed those we served.
And over the years, those cookies have been whipped up at family gatherings, holidays, football parties and late nights with the kids. I know the recipe by heart and there is an unspoken family rule that we will always have the ingredients for the cookies on hand in the cupboard. Always Nestle brand chips, always Crisco, always Domino light brown sugar. There are no substitutions. The kids’ friends ask for the cookies. Co-workers devour them if they show up at work and our friends appreciate it when we have them in hand when we drop by.
Now let me be clear, these are dang good cookies. But c’mon. They are chocolate chip cookies. What’s the big deal? Well, as it turns out, the deal is big. Because it’s not just about the cookies. It’s about the who we are with when we savor them; the where we are; the why we indulge. It’s the memories the cookies have made. It’s the smell of the cookies as they come out of the oven that reminds my kids that there is tradition and security in those gooey treats. Our minds, eyes, noses, and tummies are all captivated by the cookie and what it means to our family.
I’m pretty sure we were created for these kinds of sensory engagements. Think about it. When you catch a hint of your mother’s perfume on someone else, you smile…or cry! When you hear a song from college, you have a party in your mind. These connections are all around us and they become even more special when we really stop to recognize them. It’s the same reason, as Christians, we feel so strongly about taking communion. The more senses we involve, the more the ritual means to us. It’s not just words, it’s a smell. It’s not just a symbol, it’s a taste. It becomes sacred to us.
How are we protecting our sacred sensory stories? Do we pause our busy lives long enough to realize that we all have a sacred sensory story? The cookies taste so good…and they tell my children, “The doors are open for your friends to come into our home.” They remind us all, “In our family, we feed each others’ bellies…and hearts.”Disclaimer: My viewpoints are not necessarily reflective of my employer, or any local, regional or national organization that I belong to. As a matter of fact, I pretty much just speak for myself. Please keep that in mind.