I have always marveled at the way that children are quick to form their own societies. I don’t mean in a “Lord of the Flies” sort of way, though I know there’s an aspect of that on every playground. No, my particular point of fascination is the way children form systems of exchange.
Nowhere else are these systems more prevalent than in elementary school cafeterias. Each item in one’s lunch has two possible kinds of utility: the utility you’ll get from consuming it yourself, and the utility it will bring when bargaining with the other kids for something better. The value of some items depends greatly on the market – in a sea of children with health-obsessed parents, something as plain as a cinnamon graham cracker could be the gold bullion of one’s lunchbox – but others have intrinsic absolute value. And at the top of this list are homemade cookies, especially those speckled with chocolate.
But oddly enough, I have no recollections of chocolate chip cookie exchanges because these featured cookies were my greatest form of currency. My mom’s combination of oats, walnuts, and coconut seems an unlikely favorite with kids – especially with ones as picky as I used to be. But I promise you on the sanctity of memory and the red Pound Puppies lunchbox I held so dear, these were exceedingly popular. And every time I make them, I secretly feel as though I’m operating my own private mint.
Adapted from an Old Sturbridge pamphlet of cookie recipes
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups sifted flour
3 cups rolled oats
1 ½ tsps. soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsps. vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut
¾-1 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Cream together the sugar and shortening in a large bowl using a wooden spoon.
3. Add beaten eggs and vanilla.
4. Sift flour with soda and salt, stir in oats, and stir in the dry ingredients into the batter. Beat well.
5. Add the coconut and walnuts and mix into the batter with a wooden spoon.
6. Put ¼ cup sugar into a small bowl. Dip fingers into the sugar, then pinch off a bit of dough and roll it to the size of a walnut (so says the original recipe – I make mine more slightly larger, about 1.25 inches in diameter). Dip the ball into the sugar.
7. Place balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, about three inches apart. Press on each ball to flatten a bit with the palm of your hand.
8. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
Yield: ~4 dozen cookies