A little sketch to keep my braincells working while I wait for my actual snickerdoodles to bake in the oven. There’s no moral to this story, nor a tale, just a simple exercise I’ve been getting into the habit of doing ever since I got out of my last semester. Enjoy!
The making of snickerdoodles was probably common place and the easiest thing to do across the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean. It was a mixture of butter, sugar, flour, egg, vanilla, combined and then rolled in liberal amounts of cinnamon sugar. Unfortunately, she had misjudged exactly its difficulty in production on this side of the ocean, where baking specialties could cost an arm and a leg. Western, foreign baked delights were a strange luxury, when stores just began to stock Candy Melts.
Her trials began with the search of the two ingredients: cream of tartar and molasses. The former was supposedly irreplaceable for a snickerdoodle, and she wasn’t about to mess around with replacements – seeing how well her attempt went last time. As for the latter… it was really her fault, because conventional recipes did not usually call for molasses. But the recipe that she had found turned a snickerdoodle into a lovechild of gingerbread and – well, snickerdoodle, so how else was she supposed to deny herself the chance?
It took her several trips braving the cold, foggy winter gloom that had befallen the city to gather her supplies: two supermarkets and two baking specialty stores for the cream of tartar. The cream of tartar looked nothing like the bottles she had seen from Google, and she had walked by the baking aids aisle for what must’ve been an eternity before a supermarket worker took pity on her and asked what she was looking for. The packets of the cream – yes, packets, not even a small canister – had been tucked discreetly away in the shadows of the shopping display, overshadowed by his brethren the baking soda and the baking powder.
The hunt for molasses in itself had boiled down to a game of chance – five stores, including corner stores, baking specialty stores, and a supermarket, all refused to yield the sticky cane-sugar-syrup that the recipe called for. Two weeks, and when she did finally locate the molasses, it was only because the store had finally been able to restock the bottles of sweetener. “You’re lucky,” the lady at the counter told her, smiling kindly and eyes glittering behind horn-rimmed glasses. “We don’t usually know when it stocks because our supplier is very unreliable with this product.”
She makes a note next time to ask around for a store with a more steady supply, and clutches the paper bag with frozen, trembling fingers as she scurries out from the little fluorescent-lit store. She makes it out onto the busy walkway and nearly rams headlong into a frail, hunched over elderly grandma carefully balancing the groceries in her bag. It’s cold, the spring fog is freezing, biting winter in the wrong season, the wrong month, and she shivers in her overcoat, wishing it was warmer, wishing she brought her gloves.
The bus ride home was bumpy, standing with so many others in their stifling coats, scratchy mullen, the dark muted tones that reminded her why she loved and hated this season: loved because she could hide all that Christmas pudge from the sushi and the turkey; hated because she missed the vibrant, bright reds and purples and pinks of spring. Forty minutes of people breathing down her neck, everyone’s heads down watching their smartphone, or a lady with bright blood orange nails gossiping on the phone about her latest conquest –
Still, when the cookies are finally in the home stretch, baking in the oven while her own hands are sticky with snickerdoodle-molasses, cinnamon, muscavado, the smell wafts from behind the oven door is worth it, the way the cookies brown and crisp and crack as they bake their way to perfection. It smells even better when it is cooling on the rack in the kitchen, carefully away from the ajar window to stop them from absorbing the dank humidity. For today, the slow, unnatural gap between New Year’s and Chinese New Year’s is filled with a scent akin to Christmas and gingerbread.