Sunday, March 30, 2008


My brother-in-law (age 17) arrived from Minnesota very late last night. His parents thoughtfully flew him into the airport farthest from our house and Eric went to get him. He thought I should have a snack waiting for Ben when he got here. He mentioned this after we'd polished off the pan of brownies I'd already made over the weekend. Fortunately I love to bake, especially when I know I'll have the help of a hungry teenager to eat it all. Eric wanted blonde brownies but my recipe called for one tablespoon of vanilla which was one tablespoon more than I had. Every month when my co-op catalog comes in the mail I look to see if the warehouse serving us has started carrying quart-sized bottles of vanilla extract. I don't know how we get through that stuff so fast.

I did have two entire packages of cream cheese so I went to a recipe website and searched for recipes using cream cheese and chocolate, but not vanilla extract, and came up with Humongous Cookies.

The title of the cookie reminded me of something small that happened in college. I majored in music, but after a couple years of the grueling demands of that program I needed a change and I started pursuing courses in history and politics and using long-neglected regions of my brain again. One of the first classes I took during this time was Constitutional Law. It was taught by a professor I adored, but the class really had a reputation. It was taught in the round and the professor called on students at random to brief cases and we were on the spot for a good amount of time when called upon. Discussion was abundant and we were required to make pretty stiff arguments. My favorite gaffe from a classmate was when he said, "It just seems to me that this case deals with more of a local problem," when we were discussing Lucas v. The South Carolina Coastal Council a case which impacted pretty much the entire East Coast.

My favorite personal gaffe came during a time of heated discussion. I have no idea what case we were debating but I had a moment to interject my carefully considered opinion and began, "This is a humongous . . ." I stopped. I turned red. I'd just used the word "humongous." In retrospect I doubt that anyone would have noticed or cared, but there I was: the inexperienced music major trying to prove that she could do Constitutional Law with the politics majors. I decided to recover by stopping my argument entirely and saying, "I can't believe I just used the word humongous." Everyone laughed and we all moved on. I got an A in the class. I didn't go to law school. And I've avoided the word humongous ever since.

In the end there weren't any other recipes to satisfy the requirements of me, the baker, and my blonde-brownie craving husband so I made the cookies. They weren't bad. They are called humongous because you press the dough into two cake pans and then cut it into wedges to serve. I probably would call this recipe chocolate-chip cookie cake. They're tasty but the texture bugs me. Too cakey for brownies, too chewy for cake. But they got us through the opening rounds of "Where should Ben go to college?" He's here because we live near his current top-choice school and we're glad for the opportunity to influence his thinking in this decision.

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