There are chocolate chip cookies on our kitchen counter that I think I'm supposed to eat.
There are no notes around them like there usually are, warning me that I will be punished if I eat them. Just five precious treats in a cookie tin that my wife just left out on the counter unprotected. I can hear tiny voices calling out to me from inside the tin — like the voices of tiny flat angels.
It is now 6:37 a.m., and I know my skinny friends would be horrified at the idea that anyone would want a chocolate chip cookie first thing in the morning. But they haven't had my wife's soft, melt-in-your-mouth cookies. The cookies are splendid and can literally inject happiness into the saddest of people, regardless of outside circumstances.
And the truth is that unlike other columnists who write about pretend things like debt ceilings, Obamacare and political Etch A Sketches, I write about real things. That's taxing. And, I also have to make up facts like this: A Pewker Study conducted by the University of Nebraska's Agricultural Food Economics Program showed that 32 percent of columnists in my situation would have already eaten one or more cookies.
I know that if I find a cake in the refrigerator that says, "Good Luck, Doris; Give Your Baby a Shower," that I'm not supposed to eat that. And there is some food that appears in our refrigerator that belongs to my daughter. She purchased it with her own money, and therefore it is not to be touched by the unworthy. (Perhaps I should try that.) Even if it is unlabeled, I can usually identify it because it is food on my wife's "approved food list."
I believe that every family has one person who buys food from an approved list and one or more people who buy unauthorized food. The designated shopper often works from an actual list and carries coupons. This shopper tends to buy the same 10 to 20 items over and over and is greatly offended by off-list items.
Here are some examples from my world:
Skim milk: Approved
Chocolate milk: Forbidden
Bread with actual wheat, nuts, rocks and twigs: Approved
Bread that tastes good: Forbidden
Giant plastic tray of assorted pre-cut fruit designed for dipping and football games: Forbidden
Bucket-O-Potato Salad: Forbidden
Here's one way to tell if you are purchasing unapproved food: If you go shopping and come home immediately wanting to eat something you purchased, you've probably just bought unapproved food.
My wife makes up for her strange food rules by baking delicious chocolate chip cookies. I believe that before this life there was a sort of a talent distribution system that was a lot like an Easter egg hunt. People were held back by a rope, and when it was dropped people were allowed to charge off in search of talent eggs. (I think I tripped, fell and was trampled by the very people I now work with every day.)
My wife took nearly all the eggs available for making chocolate chip cookies. That's why hers are all soft and chewy, and others, the kind you buy in a store, taste like the dry-flour equivalent of "pink slime."
(In case you haven't been following the news on pink slime: It was recently discovered that pink slime is something that corporations — who really are people — have been adding to our hamburger probably as a way of thwarting the Occupy Wall Street folks — who are not real people. These modern-day hippies have been deemed a threat by the corporate people because they sleep outside, play music, get free stuff and laugh too much.)
The other thing my wife's cookies do is make those tiny angelic muffled noises that can wake me up from a deep sleep. That's why I'm awake so early in the morning. Everyone else in the house is asleep.
In fact, I think soldiers and this guy I know named Cliff, who works 24 hours out of every day, are the only ones up right now. If there are five cookies and one of them goes away, would my wife notice? I might just tell her that I don't know who ate the cookie but I heard Cliff and the soldiers outside doing drills this morning. I could implicate them indirectly. (Did you know they accomplish more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day?)
The perfect plan, however, would be to eat the cookie and leave just a bit of hamburger meat on the counter. Then my wife would think a corporation ate the cookie. Now that would be the perfect plan.
If only hamburger was on the approved list.
Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at [email protected].