So recently I received an invitation to an adult Christmas party. I say adult to reiterate the fancy-ness of this event. No tacky sweaters, no dumb white elephant waste of money, no gingerbread competitions (I feel it my duty as your honest correspondent to let you know that MY Christmas party this year was tacky themed, and I personally created the gumdrop walkway for my group’s gingerbread house). The invitation to the adult party however, specified that we would be having none of those childish antics. This party would be fancy.
At this point you’re probably like “poor Jenna, her dirty bird’s nest haired self surely hates fancy”, but you’re wrong! I love a good fancy. It theoretically gives me a chance to wear those black glittery stilettos that make me amazon-woman height, again. (let me spell out reality for you here, those shoes have only seen the inside of AUM’s gym when they were worn for the only time in their existence at my college graduation) Neither here, nor there, people! The invitation made me excited about dressing up (translation: brushing my hair, brushing my teeth, and brushing the lint off my dress). And even better, you get to bring your own treat to this party! YAYYYyy..yyy.y..
Sooooo, here’s the thing with bringing your own treat to a fancy party, it’s gotta be fancy right? (Remember we’re in my mind right now, dear reader, and so the resounding answer is?) Right! Even better, still too naive to be daunted I opened my new most favorite app (Yummly: seriously, such a good one) and quickly found both a sweet and a savory treat that I was going to hand-make and take.
Here’s why I didn’t recognize my delusions of grandeur just yet:
- Both recipes had less than 4 ingredients. ONE OF THEM HAD ONE INGREDIENT.
- The pictures that they find to represent the recipes are phenomenal. It took excessive restraint to avoid licking my phone’s screen.
- The directions are super simple. Again, less than 5 steps- “I bet my baby niece could do this without looking” she said smugly to herself.
- PARTY MODE. Anything and everything you want to do is accessible and possible and the best idea you’ve ever had when you’re in party mode.
I imagined me placing each treat in a pretty little vintage container. I smiled to myself as I saw people oohing and ahhing and barely believing that they weren’t store-bought (evidenced only by the fact that mine looked so much prettier than the store bought ones). I heard people asking for more and amongst many declarations of “oh my goodness, try this” and “i die” I saw myself blushing slightly and shrugging my shoulder with an ever-so-slight flip of my hair. It was majestic, potentially prophetic, if you will.
Then I went to the grocery store. Not 2 weeks early because I was so excited to gather and prepare for my 15 minutes of fame like I should have, no, no, I went the night before the party. I guess now it’s finally time to tell you what exactly I was going to make.
A) “Spicy Cheddar Appetizer Cookies” and
B) “Raspberry Almond Layered Icebox Cookies”
(( side note : EVERYONE CALM DOWN WITH THE RECIPE NAMES. if there is one thing I have learned, it is that food people will go the extra mile to make you feel uncultured. You know what that drizzle of chocolate over that one scoop of ice cream on my 12×12 square plate is? Cruel temptation; it’s like you want me to swipe at it with my dirty finger. You know what that sprig of grass hanging over the side of my soup is? Unnecessary; if I wanted to eat weeds I would’ve ordered your salad fancy folk. You know what “Spicy Cheddar Appetizer Cookies” are? Smooshed cheese straws; cut with aholiday cookie cutter.))
It may have been a mere 24 hours before I was to unveil my creations at this party, but I waltzed up into that Kroger like I owned it. After all, I had simple recipes with beautifully rendered photographs on my phone, and at 4 items long, the most impressive shopping list ever.
Then. The. Search. Began.
Let me tell you what you’re not waltzing up into your local chain grocery store and finding: ANYTHING on my list. Oh right, you don’t know yet, here’s the list:
- Spicy Cheddar Cheese Straw Dough
- Spice Cookie Dough
- Raspberry Jam
- Blanched Almonds
Thus it began. I started calmly and with “easy” things. Jam. Raspberry Jam. Cool, people love jam so this should be quick. …Jelly, jelly, jelly, preserves, jelly, preserves…no jam. Now a quick google search (YES I DID A GOOGLE SEARCH, don’t act like you know the technical differences between the two) of jam vs preserves. They’re different, it turns out, and 2/3 of the websites I clicked said they’re not generally interchangeable in fancy recipes. Here’s to you, third website! Got the preserves.
Next I thought, almonds, that’s my go-to “vegetarians don’t get enough protein and stuff” disputer, I should totally be able to find some blanched ones. But blanched…as in gag? or Devereaux? (Cooks apparently get to make up words with no repercussions.) (FYI “blanched” means without their skins. Good luck buying them that way) Apparently though, they’re easy to do yourself with some steamy water and a bowl (4/4 websites said so), but this is the point in the story where panic set in. What if I can’t blanch them properly? What if I can’t make steam? What if they get soggy? What if doing this takes all my energies?! No, no thank you, I’ll just buy them sliced up…then there’s only a little skin. The whole point of that was probably so the end product would look prettier anyways and I’m now 45 minutes past even caring what the end product looks like. (this is foreshadowing at its finest)
So moving along, the doughs. I probably walked the same 2 aisles a good 12 times each, passing the same cute boy 24 times, refusing to make eye contact with the same savvy mom 12 times (she was much more efficient than me and my short-term-grocery-store-boyfriend; guess she knew what she was looking for). But all of this to no avail. THERE WAS NO DOUGH. And in that moment, I knew what must be done, I dropped the Spicy Cheddar Appetizer Cookies recipe like it was hot. Pretty sure I audibly exclaimed “you’re not worth it” which wasn’t the wisest exclamation when you recall the aforementioned company I was in.
No matter, I’m only looking for spice cookie dough now, easy peasy. Nope. Kroger is not fancy like all that. At Kroger you can have the chocolate chip cookie dough, the sugar cookie dough, or the chocolate chip cookie dough. So I again referenced ye old google who told me that to make my own spice cookie dough I will need an additional 10 ingredients. aaaaannnnd we’re done. Obviously I picked up two ROLLS of sugar cookie dough.
This is the part where everyone always gets all, “Well duh, Jenna, you didn’t use the same ingredients as the recipe, of course it turned out like it did” to which I will respond, true. But also, until you can prove to me that those pictures online are real food and not delicacies from Emeril’s imagination that someone dreamed up in Photoshop, I will not respond to any of your
(highly logical) points.
So after that endeavor, when I finally get home, I’m not even in the mood to make anything. So I don’t. [insert nail painting and record playing here] Cue day of party.
I decide to look at the recipe again because surely it won’t be that hard and no cookie will take longer than the two hours I have between work and the party. Oh, I’m sorry, suddenly now, we’re ALL supposed to know that icebox cookies have to be refrigerated for hours at a time all along the way? And that 2 hours minimum is indeed essential? Great. Guess I know where I’m spending my lunch hour today.
Not a big deal though, l’ll just prepare the cookies at lunch and bake them after work. The dough has already been in the fridge, so it’s totally not necessary to open it, unroll it, then put it back in, let’s just skip that step! Also don’t own a rolling pin, but we can improvise! Oh wait, there’s no more flour in the apartment either? And be straight with me, it IS or ISN’T advisable to use this jar of salsa like a rolling pin? cool. I’ll use my hands.
So I smashed all the dough flat–did that recipe say 1/8 of an inch or 18/8 of an inch because the the thickness of my dough here is certainly within the parameter of 18/8 of an inch. I cut up the dough and layered ingredients as the recipe directed, but given that the cookie is much thicker when flattened with my human hand as opposed to being flattened with a rolling pin, MY cookies are only 3 layers deep instead of Martha Stewart’s 6-9 layers. (MARTHA! How do you even defy gravity like that?!) Eventually the dough started getting really soft, so I traded the knife for a cookie cutter and made some cookie sandwiches. Then the dough started losing its will to live and I couldn’t peel it from the paper or my hand so I called it a day (an hour) and put the pizza pan full of icebox cookies* (*term used loosely) into the fridge and headed back to work, questions like “will they be edible,” “should I warn people before they partake,” and “is Martha Stewart really a robot after all” running through my mind.
After work I returned home full of anticipation. First thing I did (was actually not check on the cookies, but let’s pretend for the climax of this story’s sake it was) was check the cookies! Sure enough, they were hard as a rock, seemingly affected by the “icebox” in the best possible way. So I consult my handy app, see that they need to now be put in the oven at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, and do so.
Now at this point, I’m home free. I have done the manual labor, wasted my lunch break, and have nothing left to do except expect the hallelujah chorus to unexplainedly be playing as I pull a pan of beautiful perfection out of my oven. Self-assured, I allowed Siri to make me a timer (clearly revealing the nature of my spirit as I would generally rather die than let Siri help me; I AM SPEAKING ENGLISH, MACHINE; everyone else understands me just fine.), and I continued getting ready for the party.
Fast forward a few Katy Perry jams and an eyelash curling later, and my timer goes off. IT’S TIME! Unsuspecting of the tragedy we all know was about to befall me, I excitedly opened the oven to find the most horrifc, troubling pan of straight goo.
They expanded like a pregnant Kim Kardashian, and were equally frightening to behold (I know, I’m a bully. Sorry
notsorry. ok, I’m kind of sorry). So with all my intellectual prowess, my problem solving solution was to cook them the rest of the way like normal cookies should be cooked and then carve them with a cookie cutter. Move slowly and no one will ever know what happened.
Fast forward a few Beyonce songs and few dress changes later, and they’re done baking. They look an awful lot like something diseased, certainly not appealing and as they sit there for like 2 minutes, they harden into these vicious bricks that people could potentially crack their teeth on and sue me over. (Also I don’t even like sugar cookies so I don’t know if it even tasted appealing) The only real solution here was evident; I ran into the Publix on the way to the party, ignored the judgmental gazes of my fellow shoppers (which were probably mostly because I was wearing a coat in 65 degree weather [GET IT TOGETHER NASHVILLE it’s December]) grabbed some macaroons and gingerbread cookies, and blamed it all on my lack of domesticity when I got to the party.
What counts is I tried. And what really counts is that I know my limits. Live and learn and eventually stop pretending that buying it at Publix isn’t the only option. Because it so is.