We were supposed to get the tile backsplash installed in our kitchen yesterday, but my husband, Peter, said he needed to use the kitchen so he could bake ginger cookies.
“Can you work in the bathroom today instead?” I asked Meshach, the talented tiler from Kenya, who has been here so long by now that he feels like part of the family. “Peter wants to bake ginger cookies.”
Meshach has now been joined by a second Kenyan, who is assisting him, named Yusefu. Yusefu and Meshach looked at me seriously for a long moment.
“Yes,” Meshach finally said. “We can work in the bathroom today as long as we each get a cookie.”
This seemed like a reasonable accommodation.
Peter is using his mother’s ginger cookie recipe that he has perfected through trial and error. He wears a chef’s hat when he bakes, and he is very efficient. He made the cookies at Christmas in 2019 (which seems like such a long time ago now) when his sister, Lori, was so ill we weren’t sure she would make it through the Christmas holidays. She lived through Christmas – and well beyond – and I like to think, in a small way, the ginger cookies helped.
Ginger cookies are good for your stomach when it is upset. They are not too sweet. They are easy to eat. They are wonderful with a glass of milk or a cup of tea. I don’t think there is much in life that isn’t made better by a ginger cookie, especially one fresh from the oven, small and dark and crisp, the way Peter’s mother made them.
Ginger cookies were about all Lori could eat when the chemo made her nauseous, so Peter kept baking ginger cookies after the holidays were over. When the pandemic hit, he kept baking. I don’t know how many cookies Peter brought to Lori. She couldn’t eat many. There were days when she didn’t eat much at all. But she kept eating ginger cookies when she was able to eat anything.
Peter kept baking them until shortly before she died, earlier this year.
This Sunday, we will have a memorial for Lori. Her cousins and remaining siblings and nieces and nephews and coworkers from past jobs and old friends from school will all be there. It will be outdoors in a park near where Peter’s family settled when they came over from Norway. The weather is supposed to be fine. There will be a few stories told and a few tears shed. There will be a picnic and an interment of ashes in the graveyard where generations of Peter’s family have been laid to rest. And there will be ginger cookies because Peter made a giant batch.
These cookies were comfort food for Lori, and perhaps they will help comfort us now that she is gone. They remind us of childhood and happy times and holidays spent with friends and family. They remind us that our lives are sweet and small, but that they can make a difference. This Sunday, we will all remember the ways in which Lori’s life made a difference.
“Do you think there’s enough?” Peter asked me, still in his chef’s hat, looking at the enormous pile of tiny cookies.
“Yes,” I told him. “I think there are enough.” But I might not have been telling the truth.
The truth is that I’m not sure there can ever be enough ginger cookies. The truth is, we could all stand to have a few ginger cookies stashed away for when they are needed.
Till next time,