When I was seven, I dressed up as a cowgirl and traveled the neighborhood to hand out cookies to strangers. We’d just moved to a small bit of cul de sac away from the farm we’d lived on for more than a decade. In retrospect, I don’t know what possessed me to do such a thing. Here’es an excerpt from my third book about the whole crazy thing.
From Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good:
Mom had made a comment about “calling on” the neighbors. A week after we moved to Hill Street, my parents went out to dinner in Flint. Milt was off somewhere in his Mustang. My sister was at her friends’ house, twin girls named Pam and Tam. My other brothers were in the living room with the new color TV watching “The Streets of San Francisco.”
I got dressed in my teal cowgirl vest and skirt, both attractively finished with a white leatherette fringe. I pulled on my matching white cowgirl boots and topped it with my blue felt cowgirl hat. I set off into the neighborhood with a basket in hand, my mother’s banana spice cookies inside.
The first neighbors I called on had a puzzling reaction. The man across the street operated a television repair shop out of his home. I knocked and despite hearing noise inside that would indicate they were there, they didn’t come to the door.
I moved on to a tiny brick house with a young newlywed couple. “Who are you? What are you doing?” the husband asked. I tried to explain. “Honey, go get the camera,” he yelled over his shoulder. They took my picture, then some cookies. I could hear them laughing behind the door. The Cher-style hippie girl’s home was next. She was brushing her long hair when she answered the door. She took a cookie, whispered “thank you” and closed the door, all while brushing her hair.
A sweet elderly couple explained that neither of them could eat sugar, but thanked me and welcomed us to the neighborhood. She gave me a dime. At another house, a woman answered, a baby in her arms. She chuckled as she helped herself to a cookie. “Ok, nice to meet you, Candy Girl.”
The brown house on the corner looked run-down, the backyard enclosed by a sagging aluminum fence. The doorbell didn’t work, so I knocked. A small girl with delicate features opened the door. She must have been three. I gave her several cookies. She never said a word, and just kept staring me with big brown eyes as I made my retreat.
I left the biggest house on the block for last, a two-story number with an immaculate yard. A flock of young girls answered the door. Ah! Kids my age! I thought. The dark-haired father pushed the girls aside. “Who are you? What are you selling? We don’t want any.” Before I could explain, he slammed the door in my face.
I turned away. I thought I might cry. But then, how else would I meet the nice girls inside? I squared my shoulders. “Cowgirls don’t cry,” I thought.
The next evening, I put my cowgirl outfit back on. That night, I emptied the cookie jar of mom’s oatmeal raisin cookies. I repeated the endeavor of the previous night. The man across the street pulled aside the curtain but didn’t open the door. The young couple took another photo of me. The old lady gave me another dime. The woman with the baby smiled broadly. “Hey Candy Girl! What do you have tonight?” She took two cookies.
Steeling my little cowgirl will, I returned to the big white house and rang the doorbell. The front door was open, with only a screen door in place. The girls, all clad in long cotton nightgowns, clamored from up and down the split-level entry stairs to the front door. “Hey, it’s you! Don’t worry, our dad isn’t home. You can come in.”
That’s how I met my closest childhood friends.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to put on a cowgirl outfit to give some of these cookies to your neighbors. But it wouldn’t hurt. As it happens, the neighbor who nicknamed me “Candy Girl” showed up at one of my book events in Michigan just after the book launched. She’d looked all over for the photo her husband took, but couldn’t find it. Sadly, I have no photos of me in that cowgirl outfit, but I still have the oatmeal cookie recipe.
Recipe: Mom's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
- 2 cups 360 g raisins
- 1 cup 250 ml water
- 1/2 pound 225 g unsalted butter
- 2 cups 400 g sugar
- 2 teaspoons 10 ml ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon 5 ml salt
- 4 large eggs beaten
- 3 cups 285 g old-fashioned oatmea
- 3 cups 420 g all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons 10 ml baking sod
- 1 cup 100 g chopped walnuts (optional)
- Put the raisins and water in a large skillet. Cook slowly over low heat until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Remove the raisins from the heat. Add the butter and let it melt through. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and salt and mix thoroughly. It will be a thick-liquid. Cool to lukewarm.
- While the raisin mixture is cooling, preheat the oven to to 350°F (177°C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone liner. (If you make large cookies, you may need to do 2 batches.)
- Add the eggs to the raisin mixture. Mix the oatmeal, flour, and baking soda in a large bowl until well blended. Add to the raisin mixture. Blend well. Stir in the walnuts if using.
- Drop by teaspoonfuls for small cookies or use a tablespoon for larger cookies, leaving about 1/2 inch between spoonfuls as the cookies will spread during baking.uncooked cookies on baking tray
- Bake according to cookie size, about 10 minutes for small ones and up to 18 minutes for larger ones. Let cool briefly before serving. Store in airtight container.