A/N: The first line hopped into my head, stuck there, and insisted on a story to go with it. Fight Club is the property of Chuck Palahniuk. The unnamed narrator may be the closest I've ever come to a self-insertion character. Day 18 (cookies) of the 25 Days of Fic Challenge.
The first rule of cookie exchange is "we don't talk about cookie exchange."
My faux-granite formica counter was spread with the weapons of the day. Sticks of butter in rows of military precision, softening in the sun. Measuring cups and spoons: full cup for the flour bag, half cup for the sugar bag, teaspoon for the baking powder, quarter-teaspoon for the salt. Eggs. Always use room-temperature eggs. The eggs go at the top of the sticks of butter—heads to a pale yellow army. Either the butter or the sun was an incitement: I'd had to dump the cat off the counter three times now.
"How many do you have to make?" my roommate Tori asked. She was an ambulatory yawn, a pair of raccoon eyes peering through a purple-streaked fringe above flowered flannel pajamas.
"Twelve dozen." I sliced the first two sticks of soft butter into the mixer bowl, measured level scoops of sugar, and set the mixer to cream the two together. In the beginning, there were just four of us, making four dozen each of a single cookie. Over time, cookie exchange had become a movement.
"Has anybody told you about bakeries? They have machines for that."
"Bakeries don't use the high-quality ingredients that are essential to a great cookie." My butter cost nine dollars a pound and offered the highest butterfat percentage available. Once you go European butter, you don't go back.
Tori snatched one of my parchment-paper-lined pans from the counter before I could protest. When I turned back from adding eggs (free-range) and vanilla (from Mexico, for a more robust and complex flavor profile than ordinary Madagascar), she'd pulled a package of Pillsbury cookie dough from the refrigerator.
"Bet your friends can't tell the difference," she said.
"Bet they can." Self-rising flour is for the lazy: you want control of how much leavening you get. My flour was already sifted, so I stirred in the baking powder (always Rumford, though next year I might make my own) and then added the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl.
Tori laid disks of chocolate-chip cookie dough haphazardly on her pan, then smacked them flat with the palm of her hand. I used an ice-cream scoop to set walnut-sized balls of dough two inches apart on a parchment-lined pan. Four minutes in the oven, turn the pan to make sure the cookies get even heat, then another four minutes. Five minutes firming on the pan, then the cookies went onto their rack.
At three pans per batch of dough, I could just about put together the next batch in the time it took the prior one to cycle through.
On top of the flattened dough, Tori laid an Oreo.
"I thought you were anti-consumerist," I said.
"I'm also anti-drudgery. Are you even having fun?"
"Of course I am." I wiped my forehead with my apron and poured myself another cup of coffee. The repetition of cookie-making had a Zen quality to it. I was one with the dough, over and over, creaming and mixing and scooping and sliding finished cookies off the pan.
The best part, of course, was getting my exchange basket. For the first day of nibbling, there were cookies to mock as inadequate, cookies to ooh and awe over with a tingle of competitive envy, cookies to taste skeptically, and cookies to finish in privacy and in the dark while vowing to scour Pinterest for the recipe. Then the planning began again.
"You'll eat them when they show up," I pointed out to Tori.
"I devour the flesh of my consumption-obsessed overlords." She smashed a second disk of chocolate-chip cookie dough on top of the Oreos. "I need to put this in the oven."
"Not right now." I set two pots of water on the stove, each with a mixing bowl balanced on its rim. One for white chocolate (the real stuff, not the candy coating) and one for dark chocolate (93 percent cocoa, thankyouverymuch). Half was for dipping, half for drizzling.
I was bending into the oven heat for the last pan when I heard a familiar horking noise.
"The cat's throwing up," Tori announced unnecessarily.
I set the pan on the stove top and ran for the noise, in the grip of every cat owner's futile hope that it'd be possible to move the cat before something disgusting landed on pale upholstery.
In the living room, the cat looked up from gagging over the palest part of the rug's pattern to glance with proud significance at a much-gnawed and saliva-coated roll of Scotch tape, left out for wrapping presents.
"Don't eat tape!" I said. The cat horked.
Three hours later, when I hauled the cat carrier back up the stairs and into the apartment—having made the eight-hundred-dollar determination that the cat had merely gummed the tape and wasn't going to die—I was startled by the realization that I smelled sugar and butter and chocolate, but absolutely nothing burning.
"I finished your cookies," Tori said from the kitchen door. "Do you want a glass of wine? There's a good kitty. What indignities did the pharmo-industrial society inflict on you, kitty?"
"Thank you." The cat, once released, dashed under the sofa to think over the events of the day. "Yes, I'd love a glass of wine."
I followed Tori into the kitchen, where the cooling racks were now lined with puffy chocolate-chip lumps. My own cookies had been set neatly on pans after they'd been dipped and drizzled.
"You did great," I said. The wine was wine, sweet, cheap, and welcome. Tori handed me one of her cookies, and I couldn't say no, though the thought of mass-produced dough and Oreos appalled me.
"I hoped you'd think so."
The cookie was so hot that the chemical abstraction of cream filling had turned to liquid sweetness. I'd finished a third one before my brain processed what was right in front of my eyes.
Tori had decorated every one of my cookies with slogans. I see squandering was white chocolate drizzled on dark. What owns you? was dark chocolate drizzled on white. By-products of a lifestyle obsession was. . . difficult to squeeze onto a cookie, but she'd managed it. Her handwriting was quirky but surprisingly legible.
"That's not—" I rejected right, appropriate, and sane on the grounds that Tori was trying to help. "That's not what I'd intended."
"Bet your friends will never know the difference."
I held out my wine glass for a refill as I took another of her cookies. The floor looked like a nice place, so I let my knees collapse until I was sitting on it, with my back to a cabinet. The cat came winding into the room and marked my glass with his chin.
"They'll think it's ironic," I said. "It'll be the hit of the exchange."
A/N: Tori's Oreo-stuffed chocolate-chip cookies are a thing and can be found in many places on the internet.