“First, you start with a couple cups of flour.” My mom spoke over my two wrestling brothers in the kitchen. Her hands worked expertly, grabbing a bowl here and a spatula there, sifting flour with the speed of a cheetah. I lifted onto my tippy toes, peeking over the tacky countertop in order to watch the magic unfold. “Next you add the sugar.” My interest peaked at the word “sugar”, and I stretched out my tiny hand to catch the falling crystals as my mom dumped a heap of it into the bowl. She chuckled and moved to the fridge, grabbing two eggs. She handed me both of them and asked for help with the cracking. I jumped up and down in excitement at the prospect that I would get to help add the eggs. Luckily, I did not drop either of the precious shells and their contents during my burst of five-year old joy.
My mom grabbed the stool nearby and set it on the floor next to the counter, allowing me to see the bowl from the proper view. I felt tall and proud despite my unusually short stature as I loomed over the bowl of precious ingredients. I set one egg down gently on the counter, surrounding it with a wall of spoons to keep it from rolling away. She gave me quick instructions on how to hold the egg, how hard to hit it, and how to split it once it was cracked down the middle. I nodded, even though I had not listened to a work she said, and eagerly lifted the first egg above the rim of the bowl. I remembered the countless times my mom cracked the shells with perfect precision, and was determined to do the same on my first try. However, in the moment before my triumph, yells erupted from behind us. We turned to see my brothers pulling at each other’s hair and cursing. My mom turned away from the counter and intervened with yells of her own. I, however, was not going to let two rowdy boys ruin my moment.
I grasped the egg and smacked it against the bowl’s edge, allowing a crack to form down its middle. My eyes were so focused that any observer would guess that I was diffusing a bomb, not making cookies. Next, my small fingers grabbed the opposite sides of the egg and split them away from each other above the rest of the ingredients. I watched the yellow yolk fall away from its shell and land in the metal bowl with a small plop as it hit the flour-sugar mixture. The whites followed with a slow droop as if they were reluctant to leave the cozy egg. A broad smile stretched across my chubby face as I set the empty husk down and grabbed the second egg. Perfection, I thought, staring at my first success. The complaints of my brothers and the therapeutic voice of my mom melted into the background as I raised the second egg for its calculated destruction. I repeated the same process as before, cracking the shell against the edge of the bowl and splitting it in half above the bowl’s contents. I marveled at my victory, setting the second shell down across from the first.
Then, I saw it. The horrid, disgusting, blasphemous little spot of brown among the pure white of flour and sugar. A shell! How could I possibly have allowed a piece of shell into the magical mixture of my mom’s cookie dough? A sense of failure and defeat washed over me, and I knew there was only one way to deal with this terrible predicament. I Immediately burst into tears. My mom clearly heard my overdramatic sobs, because she came running over with one of her famously good hugs at the ready. “What’s wrong sweetie?” She asked in an alarmed but comforting tone. I continued to sob, snot bubbling from my nostrils as I pointed into the metal bowl. She peered inside with ruffled eyebrows, spotting the centimeter long shell sitting among the ingredients. She sighed and wiped away my tears, telling me it was ok until I finally calmed down enough to look back at my unforgivable mistake. She grabbed one of the shell halves that I had set aside and dipped it into the bowl, scooping out the small shard. Then, my mom cleaned up the counter and turned back to me. “A small shell is nothing to worry about, honey. You can always use a bigger one to scoop it out.” She kissed my forehead, and went back to adding ingredients.
I may not have realized it at the time, but my mom taught me something very important. Not about baking, eggs, or anything kitchen related, for that matter. Instead, she taught me something vitally important about imperfection. One tiny shell in a bowl of yummy ingredients seemed like the end of the world to five-year-old me. Since then, I have baked countless batches of cookies with my mom and without her. I don’t always get a shell into the dough, but when I do, I use her technique to get it out. When I make small mistakes, I remember that they are “nothing to worry about”. I remember that worse comes to worst, one mistake will cause a slight imperfection in the wonderful recipe of life. Or, in other words, there will be a little crunch of a shell in my cookie.