Gooey, chewy chocolate chip cookies, paired with an ice cold glass of milk, are almost as comforting as mamma’s warm embrace. When you’re jonesing for one on a small island off the coast of Naples, Italy and your mamma is nowhere to be found, you end up agreeing to a hug from some large-breasted zia – who is really your neighbor and not a blood relative at all – and in whose chest your nose ends up getting stuck. Instead of feeling warm and fuzzy, you usually just feel violated. And you still want that dang chocolate chip cookie. Alas, Chips Ahoy are hard to come by here. Let’s face it, nothing beats a fresh-from-the-oven, homemade cookie anyway.
You think, “I have an oven, two hands, and my recipe on this Godforsaken island, so why not make the cookies myself?” Well, it’s the ingredients that get you. Classic chocolate chip cookies require brown sugar. When you ask people on Ischia for brown sugar, they hand you raw cane sugar. It’s brown, but it’s not brown sugar. Next, you begin dreaming up ways to make your own brown sugar. But that requires molasses. The reaction from the natives when you ask for sweet, sweet molasses is, “Molahhhsss, che?” It basically translates to, “Mole ass, what?”
So, I never realized how American chocolate chip cookies were until I spent even more significant time with Italians. Bet you didn’t think that was possible, right? After all, I grew up with a father who grew up in Ischia and a mom, whose father grew up in Ischia. Still, I never knew that my deprived ancestors – on top of having to climb out of poverty, go to school only until the third or fifth grade, and pee and poop in an outhouse – only learned of the sacred chocolate chip cookie when they moved to the States. I took the cookie for granted. The islanders had no idea what they had been missing.
When my husband and I got married nearly five years ago and his family came to the United States for our vow renewal ceremony (shortly after we married in Italy), my mother would serve up Nestle chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven after dinner every night. My in-laws had never seen or eaten a chocolate chip cookie. But it was love at first bite. Now, they wanted me to make the cookies when I was in Italy. But I didn’t know what to do without brown sugar. A few of them attempted to make them with white sugar and failed miserably.
For the first time last week (as a Mother’s Day gift to my sisters-in-law, who craved the chocolate chip so), I made the chocolate chip cookie successfully without brown sugar. I can not take any of the credit for it was another blogger, who came up with the recipe that saved us from our cookie-free life on this isolated isola. If you want one of the best chocolate chip cookies ever, make the recipe at How to Simplify. We Italian islanders are forever in your debt, Jen Tilley.