I love words -- written and spoken. I can't imagine how anyone cannot like reading a book. For me, a good afternoon is lounging on the couch and turning pages.
A wait in a doctor's office is another good thing for me; it gives me a guilt-free chance to read. I don't mind jury duty either -- it's mostly waiting and time for reading.
Some of my favorite opening lines are from Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" -- "Call me Ishmael." Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca" -- "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." And George Orwell's "1984" -- "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
When our son was young, actually from the time he was born, I read to him every night. When he learned to read, we would take turns reading to one another. The words of some of the books still delight me:
From Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon" -- "Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light, and the red balloon ... "
And from Dr. Seuss: "And that is a story that no one can beat, and to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street."
During his high school years, I picked up a book he was reading for his English class, Sue Monk Kidd's "The Secret Life of Bees" -- "At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed
It doesn't get much better than that.
There are also words that I love the sound of -- Saskatchewan, obstreperous, Winnipesaukee, soliloquy ...
There are words that get my heart racing, like my favorite four-letter words, "sale" and "free." Or, in summer, "hot" and "sunny."
There are also culinary terms that trip delightfully off the tongue -- among them béchamel, chiffonade, emulsify, roux and vanilla.
But my all-time favorite word in the English language, both in sound and in reality -- is "cookie." There are few cookies I've encountered that I haven't liked, except for those flavored with anise. (I've never been a big fan of the taste of licorice, and that includes fennel and fennel seeds.)
While my favorite store-bought cookies are Hydrox chocolate cream sandwiches (yes, I prefer them over Oreos, although Oreos will do in a pinch) my favorite home-baked cookies are all pretty plain and simple. I love Snickerdoodles with their cinnamon and vanilla flavor. I also love the cookies from a recipe that was handed down by my Grandmother Ida Kean. The hand-written recipe is pasted into my Mom's cookbook and my grandmother has attributed it to "Mrs. Wolcott," whoever she may have been. The cookies are soft and chocolatey and go great with a cold glass of milk.
Mix together well:
4 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix and add to first mixture:
1 cup hot water
8 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Roll and cut out dough with cookie cutters. (I use a drinking glass.) Bake on ungreased baking sheets at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
Make a glaze of confectioners sugar and water and spread on tops of cookies.
One of my husband's favorite homemade cookies is one a friend's sister used to make for him when he was in high school. These are also soft and chewy -- and a good way to use up over-ripe bananas.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
Add 1 cup mashed banana (3 small) and blend.
Add and then mix well:
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
Add 1 1/2 cups flour and mix; then add 1 3/4 cups quick oats and mix. Then add 1 6-ounce package chocolate chips and mix.
Drop on non-stick cookie sheets using a tablespoon. Bake at 350 degrees until light brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.