96: Grandma’s Recipe for Instant Stress Relief

96: Grandma’s Recipe for Instant Stress Relief

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love

Grandma’s Recipe for Instant Stress Relief

Grandmas never run out of hugs or cookies.

~Author Unknown

The spoon is hot but I can’t wait a moment longer. Gingerly, I pull the spoon’s contents into my mouth with my teeth. The rich, creamy taste of sweet chocolate spreads across my tongue. The rough, rocky texture of oatmeal pleases my palate as I chew. Mmmm, instant stress relief. I close my eyes, lean against the kitchen counter, and savor my grandmother’s answer to modern tranquilizers and antidepressants. The perfect cure for stress, grief, and anything else that threatens to ruin a perfectly good day — old-fashioned chocolate drop cookies.

What is it about these cookies that makes everything better? They have been working their magic in my family for generations. It’s not just their sweet chocolate flavor or even the pleasure of eating them. For me, it is the memories associated with making the cookies that provide the cure. When the world knocks me down one time too many, decisions overload my brain, or disappointments threaten to overwhelm me, I head for the kitchen.

Dragging out my oldest, heaviest pan from the far back corner of the cabinet sets the stage for therapy to begin. A modern, nonstick, lightweight aluminum pan would never do — for the cookies to work their magic, an old, heavy pan is required. Mine was old when my mother used it twenty years ago. Somewhere along the way it lost its handle and the bottom is blackened, but no other pan makes cookies like this one does.

First, into the pan over medium heat goes one stick of butter. Not margarine, but real butter complete with fat and calories. “Never accept a cheap substitute when you can get the real thing,” Grandma always said. “It might take a little longer to get, but the real thing is more satisfying and well worth the wait.” Grandma never had much, but what she had was quality. Her hand-me-downs are still being enjoyed by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Next, two cups of sugar and half a cup of cocoa are added to the pot. The sharp bitter odor of the cocoa fills my nostrils. It is a strong smell, a direct contrast to the sweet smell of the sugar. As the mixture begins to blend together, it reminds me of how strong grandma and all my ancestors before her were. They lived hard lives as frontier women. They faced danger, drought and disasters. They survived because they were strong. Simple pleasures like these chocolate drop cookies were enough to remind them of life’s joy even in hard times.

Now into my pot goes half a cup of evaporated milk. Stir until everything is blended smooth, Grandma taught me. In life, focusing only on the good or bad times leaves life lumpy — unblended. A balanced life is blended with the realization that there will be ups and downs — it makes the mixture interesting and tasty rather than bland.

My mixture is bubbling, alive and active in the old pot. I quickly turn off the heat, add one teaspoon of vanilla for flavor, then three cups of uncooked oatmeal. Life needs a little flavor and crunch to stay exciting; nothing is quite so deadly as boredom. Perhaps I have been in the same place with the same people doing the same thing and facing the same problems in the same way for too long. I stir the mixture one more time then remove it from the stove. My life may need a little stirring too.

Now the fun begins — dropping the cookies one spoonful at a time onto waxed paper. Plop! That one is for the bills. Plop! That one is for the constant stack of dirty dishes in my sink. Plop! Plop! Plop! Deadlines, grumpy people, fussy children. Halfway through the dropping of cookies, I start to smile. My kitchen smells sweet and cozy like the memory of my grandma’s kitchen. I can imagine her here beside me. Her high musical laugh fills my ears as I continue to plop cookie mixture onto my frustrations.

Yes, the instant stress relief of chocolate drop cookies has worked its magic for me again. I can almost feel Grandma wiping chocolate from my chin with the corner of her apron. “Child, you can only do so much in a day,” she often told me. “That’s why God gives a new day every morning.”

Grandma is right. I have done more than enough today. I think I’ll turn off the phone and the computer and take a plateful of these cookies over to my neighbor Sheila’s house. I bet she could use some stress relief too.

Grandma’s Chocolate Drop Cookies

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1 stick butter

3 cups raw uncooked oats

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, cocoa, milk and butter.

Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until mixture starts to boil. Remove from heat.

Add oats and vanilla. Stir until blended.

Drop onto waxed paper by the spoonful.

~Sharon T. Hinton

More stories from our partners