The Absolute Value of a Chocolate Chip Cookie

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, it has no survival value — rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.
— C. S. Lewis

"This is the best restaurant ever!" So said the four-year-old, offered his second chocolate chip "tookie" at our dinner table Sunday night. The ten (yes, ten) of us were crammed into our dining room, talking about our favorite books, confessing our most challenging character traits, and telling our kids the story about that one year in college when Jason basically lived in a closet behind a bathroom in an apartment above 8th Street downtown Holland. 

We shared a great meal (main course, salad, veggies, cheese, bread) and excellent conversation, which is all you really need for it to count as a Sunday supper. But there were also cookies, which strike me as one of those things, not strictly necessary, that add unmeasurable value to a meal. We try not to be a family that expects something sweet after each meal we eat; less sugar is better for everyone, after all, and of course we're technically all set nutritionally after the actual meal itself. But there's a reason that birthday parties and celebratory meals don't quite seem right to me unless there's a little treat: a chocolate, some homemade butterscotch pudding, a tiny dish of the very wonderful blueberry ice cream Jemma chose at the market on Friday afternoon.

Dessert adds that kind of special dimension to the moment. It says: this is lucky; this is worth noticing and enjoying; this is not necessary for survival but it gives value to survival -- much like fresh air on a sunny day, a good song playing in the kitchen while you cook, laughter from your daughter's bedroom just before bedtime, great stories, friendship, philosophy, art. And this dimension has been our greatest return on investment after six months of Sunday suppers. Yes, we've seen some tangible rewards: strengthened relationships, more time in the kitchen and around the table, a chance to model hospitality and generosity for our kids, a bunch of delicious food to nourish us at the start of each week. But six months in, it's things like a four-year-old's exclamation over cookies that make this endeavor worth it. It's the hugs at the back door when old friends leave, the stories we've heard from grandparents that we'd never heard before, the way Jemma takes care to put the napkin on the left and the fork on top of the napkin when she sets the table now. It's time at the sink for me and Jason late on a Sunday night when the house is quiet, the dishwasher is humming, and we're just drying the last of the pots and pans. It's the satisfaction of having spent our Sunday doing something intentional. It's knowing that nothing about this experiment in rest and connection is necessary to our survival, acknowledging that the prep work is sometimes a pain, making one more trip to the grocery store on a Saturday because we're out of an ingredient -- all because, six months in, we're 100 percent sure that the practice is making our life quietly better.

So, six months in: Sunday suppers are the cookies of life. Not strictly necessary for survival. But possibly necessary for making life worth living. 

Signature Chocolate Chip Cookies

For at least ten years, these have been the only chocolate chip cookies I've made. I love to bake, and I've tried two different bran muffins, a dozen versions of apple crisp, lots of brownie recipes, banana bread three ways, and more chocolate cake variations than I can count, but I'm never even tempted to stray from this recipe. It's adapted from The Common Grill Cookbook, and I make it almost as written there except for one thing: I always, always use a mix of chocolates for the chocolate chips. I can't remember why or when I started doing this, but it's the secret to making these really good. I usually make up the 2.5 cups of chocolate chips with about 2 cups of semi-sweet chips and 1/2 c. of a dark chocolate bar, cut roughly into chunks, though I've also subbed in white chocolate and even dried cherries and pecans -- whatever you use, it just needs to total 2.5 cups of mix-ins. This week, though, when I made them for Sunday supper, I used equal parts Guittard milk and semi-sweet chips, which I stumbled across at the local grocery store. Totally worth the splurge on the fancy chocolate. 

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 1/2 c. chocolate chips, a mix of semi-sweet, milk, and dark to taste

In large mixing bowl cream the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Continue mixing slowly while adding the brown sugar. Batter should be light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix. Gently fold in dry ingredients and chocolate chips.

Drop 1 generous tablespoon per cookie onto a cookie sheet, spaced an inch or two apart. Chill cookie sheet for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 300. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until golden. Makes 2 dozen large or 3 dozen small cookies. Can be doubled if you're making Wednesday treats for the entire elementary school staff.