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Sat Dec 22, 2018, 01:25 PM

A Big, Shared Cookie Is an Invitation to Stay and Talk Into the Night.

'For about 30 years, Iíve been tacking pictures, memos, small talismans, odd cards and clippings to the cork wall behind my desk. Among the mementos are a recipe for my Aunt Berthaís apple cake, which Iíve never made; many photographs of our son when he was half the height that he is today; pages from articles I wrote long ago; New Yorker cartoons; and some family snapshots from the days when we printed such things. The wall is seven feet long and messy ó a haphazard collage more closely resembling an archaeological pileup than a purposeful archive. Most of the time, I walk into my room and pay no attention to the pinnings; in those moments, the accumulation is just wallpaper. But sometimes, when Iím working, Iíll swivel my chair idly, catch a glimpse of an image and stop for a minute. Pictures of my mother do that to me often. And then, a few weeks ago, my eyes fell on a button thatís seemingly been there forever. It says: Life is uncertain ... eat dessert first. . .

Any dessert can set the moment, but the best are those that can be eaten slowly. I love ice-cream sundaes, but they demand so much attention ó all conversation stops when thereís a risk of melted ice cream. Bundt cakes are nice ó they invite returning for another sliver and perhaps another after that. Pies are fine, small pastries are good and cookies are almost perfect, because theyíre eaten slowly and usually in multiples. Even better than a plate of cookies, though, is one large cookie meant to be broken, bit by bit, in an act of communal enjoyment.

My favorite large cookie, a brown-sugar cookie redolent of ginger, honey, cinnamon and clove, carries the scent of the season and tacks between crisp and slightly chewy, between gingersnap and gingerbread. That it has ground coffee in it marks it as a sweet for grown-ups, one thatís as good with whiskey as it is with espresso or tea. Roll the cookie thin; its shape should be odd and ragged, anything but perfect. Place it on a board, a big napkin or directly on the table, break off a chunk and encourage everyone to follow. A couple of dipping sauces ó maybe caramel and chocolate ó are always a fine addition.'


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