Have you ever heard of Meetup? If not, let me fill you in – it’s a website where anyone with any interest can start a group in order to “meet up” and socialize with other like-minded individuals. Most of the Meetup groups are pretty mundane – book clubs, mommies, hikers, movie buffs, foodies, singles. However, you’ve also got your more…specialized groups – pug owners, philosophers, atheists…and even nudists, survivalists, and those that live the polyamorous lifestyle.
Right before my husband left me, I started looking into some of the more vanilla groups – and joined a book club, a hiking group, and a group for people who like to play cards and board games. Quite frankly, it was a little intimidating – while I put on a good front, socializing with strangers makes uncomfortable until I get to know them.
Last week, someone in my hiking group posted a meetup – a “Holiday Gourmet Cookie Exchange.” Yeah, I’m not sure what cookies have to do with hiking either – it’s not like we were climbing to the top of the mountain to swap sweets – but it was a chance to try all sorts of “gourmet” cookies – and who doesn’t like that? The party was limited to just six people and each guest was expected to bring seven dozen “gourmet” cookies (no chocolate chip, peanut butter, or oatmeal cookies allowed) – a dozen of these would be sampled by guests at the party and then each guest would go home with a dozen of each type of cookie! Brilliant! I would come home with a great assortment of holiday cookies that I could then repackage and give to coworkers and neighbors – Christmas gift giving done – no muss, no fuss!
I attempted to sign up, but was rejected – the party was already full (well, of course it was! Who has a cookie exchange and only invites six people??) Apparently, I wasn’t the only one denied – other hikers had left comments, stating things like, “Why don’t you open the party to more guests – and instead of a dozen cookies, people could take home a half-dozen of each type of cookie?” and “More guests=more cookies – it just makes sense!” The hostess responded, obviously affronted by the unsolicited opinions. “I’ve done this type of party many times and I know what I’m doing.”
I hit the button to join the wait list for the party in case someone dropped out – and then promptly forgot all about it.
On Monday evening, I received a surprise email from the hostess: “So, I’m thinking of maybe adding you to the guest list for Wednesday night (yes – a mere two nights later!), but first I need to know what kind of cookie you would bring so as to add to the delicious variety?” I was initially offended. I was supposed to audition for the privilege of going to the cookie swap? Still… cookies…and I’d come home with a shitload of various cookies for holiday snacking and gifting…and I’d meet some new people…and…COOKIES! I composed my email response: “I have a killer Lemon-Rosemary sandwich cookie I had intended to make. However, with such short lead time, I would need to know right away if I have passed your cookie test, as they take quite some time to make.”
I figured I would never hear from the hostess again – that my sarcasm would forever ban me from this and future parties – but apparently my cookies sounded just too delicious to pass up (or perhaps they added JUST the right amount of “delicious variety” to the mix). I was added to the guest list.
The next night, I baked from 5:30-9:30pm – making I don’t know how many batches of cookies, rolling the dough into little balls, pressing it flat with the bottom of a sugar-coated glass, and then popping them into the over for seven minutes – and then doing it again, and again, and again, and again. It occurred to me too late that by offering to bring sandwich cookies, I had committed myself to bringing fourteen dozen cookies instead of just seven! Still, determined, I powered on.
The next night, I packaged up my cookies and my daughter and I set out to the cookie exchange. I knew no one, save one woman I had met at an earlier party – who had no idea who I was (it’s nice to know I’m so incredibly memorable!). Still, the party was relatively pleasant, interspersed with occasions of awkwardness – like when one guest took a bite of my cookie and turned me (not knowing it was my contribution), making a face and confiding, “I hate lemon! I never would have taken it if I had known!” She held out the bitten cookie to me, “Do you want to eat the rest? I can break off the part I ate!” Some cookies were delicious.
Some cookies were surprising.
Some cookies were hideously disgusting.
But according to my daughter – my cookies were the best.
Have you ever been involved in a cookie exchange? Did you eat so many treats that you were practically in a sugar coma by the time you got home? What is your favorite cookie??