Thursday, 21 July 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookies

It was at the height of Summer, when the mind was too distressed to indulge in any kind of voluminous reading, that I picked up this slim book with a green cover and blue edged pages. It was Ruskin Bond's latest and was simply titled, 'A Book of Simple Living : Brief Notes from the Hills'. I figured since I couldn't make it to the hills, which in an ideal world I would escape to, for the three brutal months of Summer, I'd find some comfort in Ruskin Bond's words that have always celebrated the magic of the mountains. 

And what an enchanting read it turned out to be. The notes, most no more than a page, are written with the author's trademark simplicity, honesty and a certain childlike wonder. I simply let the words wash over me as he wrote about life's simple joys and even simpler truths. Be it the mountain view from his window as the season change or the daisies growing out of the rocks or the memory of a past love or the sound of a gushing mountain or simply, a sweet appreciation for the balm that solitude provides. So that even on an excruciatingly, unbearable Summer's afternoon, whilst stuck in an air-conditioned room, one was left with no option but to smile. 

And then a few weeks later, I would come across his very first book, 'The Room on the Roof', a special illustrated edition to mark it's 60th anniversary. As he himself explains, the book was written by him, when in a foreign land, terribly lonely, he wrote down all his memories of a time, when egged on by adolescent energy and rebellion, he broke off the shackles of authority and propriety to embrace a world of colour, adventure, angst, desire, excitement, envy, joy and a multitude of other emotions that one grapples with at that age.

It's interesting to place the two books, side by side. One, as Bond puts it, is a 'book about adolescence by an adolescent', capturing the emotions of one, on the cusp of life. The other is written by a man, who has just turned eighty, sharing his secrets of contentment, whilst acutely aware of his own mortality. What they both have in common is the honesty and simplicity that run through their pages which has the ability to look you in the eye, prompting you to pause and look within. With the two books, you are privy to one man's journey through life. And you are left with one of life's most enduring messages. That to shrug off life's rancour, hostility and disappointment and to arrive at your twilight years with a twinkle in your eyes, a smile on your face and laughter in your voice, is in living in the moment, moving on from the past, building a bond with nature and appreciating life's smaller and simpler moments. Because as he writes, "Happiness is a mysterious thing, to be found somewhere between too little and too much"

And talking about the simple things in life are these chocolate chip cookies that I baked. Choc chip cookies are one of those baked goods that everyone bakes, everyone has a recipe of and everyone has an opinion on. I zeroed in on a recipe that has popped up in countless blogs, with each one saying this recipe met the brief for what they were looking for in a chocolate chip cookie. Why, it even won BuzzFeed's Chocolate Chip Cookie Taste-A-Thon (yes, they do have something like that!), fending off some serious competition.

The recipe is by Tara O'Brady, the voice behind the blog, 'Seven Spoons' and this recipe appears in her debut cookbook by the same name. What draws me most about the recipe is how fuss free it is. You don't need to bring the eggs and butter to room temperature. You don't even need a hand mixer, a bowl and a whisk will do just fine. Although what is non-negotiable is that you should use chopped up chocolate chunks instead of standard chocolate chips. You choose whether you want to rest the dough or bake them right away, although I'd recommend that you let the dough rest overnight.

Because, the cookies that will emerge from your oven have nothing to fault them with. They are slightly crispy, slightly chewy and those little islands of warm, melty dark chocolate have the power to set the world right. I don't like to use the term 'best ever' but let's just say, I reckon your search for a chocolate chip cookie recipe will end with this one. So, when you do get the time, give it a shot.

Tom Alter, captured the essence of Ruskin Bond's work when he writes, "Ruskin knew that life was not a childhood game, but he also knew that the game of childhood was the only way to survive life".

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