The Child and I drive to IKEA, again. Two years after The Departed’s possessions were removed from our home, we’re still figuring out what to do with some spaces. This journey is for shelves that will fill the corner of the family room that his desk and piles of computer equipment once noisy occupied; the shelves will hold the books that were banished to the garage with the introduction of e-readers to our household, but are now being welcomed back with the realization that it’s nice to be surrounded by knowledge and pleasant memories. I find my old Dorothy Parker compilations, my childhood copy of the complete work of the brothers Grimm, and some forgotten, barely used cookbooks, bought mostly as souvenirs rather than with any intent of actually using them.
One of them is The Veselka Cookbook, from a Ukrainian restaurant in New York located not too far from where I grew up. There were lots of Ukrainian and Polish restaurants in the area then, because the neighborhood was full of immigrants who ran them and ate at them, along with high school students who discovered you could stretch your meager lunch budget quite far by filling up on potato pierogies.
Veselka is still there, but the last time I went, the rest of those places were gone. One particular favorite, Christine’s, had been replaced by a place that sells grass-fed beef hamburgers at prices that seem out of the reach of the average hungry student, but the school is no longer there, either, so it probably doesn’t matter much. I had a burger and it was quite good, even if it wasn’t what I was looking for.
If my Old School Friend and I still lived around there, I’d take him out to one of those places, and we could fill up on comfort food until 2am, talking all the while, and feeling satisfied and happy at the end. But neither of us is there anymore, and our hometown has been transformed into someplace “new,” a place that other people have reinvented into irrelevance, with trendy, award-winning, unsatisfying brownies.
I don’t remember ever eating Veselka’s Oatmeal Cookies back in the day, but it’s hard to mail borscht or pierogies, and in any case, cookies were promised. I send them off with a note of explanation and two jars of marmalade.
Two days later, a message arrives: I’m speechless, he says. Speechless and grateful and I realized you may be the friend I’ve known the longest.
Old friends are the best friends.
He rambles on a bit, telling me he’s turned a corner, but also that the arrival of an unexpected package reminded him of the last unexpected package he received, which contained his ex’s unopened birthday gifts.
It just takes time, I say. Time to feel better, time to redecorate, time to open those boxes in the garage and remember who you were when you bought the contents.
The cookies are quite good. Oatmeal cookies can be quite heavy, but these are – ironically for a restaurant that specializes in hearty, heavy foods – quite light. One reason for the lightness is the flour used; the original recipe calls for two cups of cake flour, which I didn’t have, so I substituted a blend of all-purpose flour and cornstarch, which works very well. There are also none of the usual walnuts; instead, coconut adds a bit of variety and texture.
If you make them, you’ll definitely want to use parchment paper underneath the cookies when they bake. They are too fragile to remove from the cookie sheet, otherwise, until they have cooled completely.
- 16 tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup plus 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 350⁰F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, vanilla, and sugars, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, blending until combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.
- Whisk all the dry ingredients except raisins together in a bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, blending until fully incorporated. Fold in the raisins.
- Use a cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop cookies by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared sheets, leaving three inch spacing around each cookie. Bake until cookies are nicely browned, 10-12 minutes.
- Lift the cookies and parchment paper onto wire racks to cool.