I have a go to measuring cup I always use for baking, especially for my chocolate chip cookies. It’s perfect. It’s an old, plastic, one-cup measure, and estimating conservatively, it’s hosted the ingredients for at least 2500 batches of chocolate chip cookies. If I were a betting human, I’d put my money on many more than that, but I’m safe with 2500. Batches. That number says nothing of the other things, the birthday cakes, the Christmas treats, the squares, and other kinds of cookies. But still, 2500 batches of chocolate chips cookies.
This cup has a history.
The year Jim and I were married, several bridal showers were thrown in our honour. One of those was hosted by Jim’s aunts at St. Alban’s Church in Beamsville, ON, where Jim’s mom attended church and where ten years later, having been ordained an Anglican priest, she served as associate pastor. Not being from the area, and truth be told, not having known Jim all that long, I knew very few of the fifty or so people at the shower. I had met Jim’s mom, and his aunts, and his one sister-in-law, but otherwise I was a fish out of water in that community. Luckily for me, several of my sisters joined us and I was able to find a few familiar faces in the crowd. I recall being grateful and overwhelmed all at once. I did not want to disappoint Jim’s mom or give anyone any fodder for conversation over coffee once the shower was done.
I opened gift after gift. I think it was my sister, Margaret, at my side, recording the gifts and the name of the gift-giver so I could send thank you notes in a timely fashion, as was the expectation of the time.
It was at that shower I received my beloved measuring cup. At the time, it was just a nice little gift. It was ordinary and practical and not particularly special at all. I had no idea it would become beloved. But the chocolate chip cookies it makes are magic and I’ve used it for every batch I’ve made at home for over forty years.
Over those years, my little cup has aged along with me. In fact, it’s been the brunt of a few jokes. A few years back, I was horrified when the bottom of it cracked. Time for a new measuring cup, was the suggestion from more than one family member. Newer versions showed up in my Christmas stocking, and others appeared in my baking drawer. But my little cup had never failed me, and I was not about to discard it so easily. I determined that as long as I did not use it for liquids, it could continue to do its job. And so, I continued to carefully use it to make my magic cookies.
This week, as Ben and I started our baking together, I measured margarine into the cup. As I was using a spatula to scrape the margarine into the bowl, a small piece of the bottom of the cup, about a square centimetre in size, broke right off into the margarine. There was now a little hole in the bottom of the cup. Ben, knowing nothing of the 2500 batches of cookies that had come before the one he was making, could see by my face that this was not good. I told him I was sad, because this was my favourite measuring cup, and it made such good cookies.
“Don’t worry Gramma”, he assured me, “For your birthday I will get you one just like it”. I didn’t have the heart to let him know this one is so old, it’s not sold anymore.
So silly it is, to be heartbroken by a little old measuring cup, especially one having the measurements worn right off it from so much use. But this little cup has been a steadfast companion for me. It’s never let me down. In many ways, it’s been co-writer in the story of my life. Both my children learned to bake using this cup. Almost every single day they were in school, from first grade to twelfth, they had two chocolate chip cookies made with this measuring cup packed in their lunch. When Greg was in grade five, he asked if I could add a couple extra cookies for a boy in his class who loved the cookies and whose mother did not bake. I said of course and added two more. A week or so went by and Greg asked for a couple more. Intuition on high alert I asked why. It turned out Greg was creating a little business out of my cookies. One dollar for two cookies. We stopped the business but continued packing the cookies.
As time went on, the staff at school began to love the days when my cookies would appear. I sent them with Jim for his staff. I made them for bake sales. I made them for friends. I made them when the kids came home from university. I made them for Jim’s mom, in recent years making the batter and rolling it into little balls and freezing them so she could serve fresh cookies when company came to visit. During the pandemic I made them for the nurses at the hospital. I sometimes take them on hikes. When I was teaching, knowing how stressful midterms and final exams were, I made little packages for each of my students writing their exam. Part way through the test, I’d roll my little audio visual cart up and down the aisles, whispering to each student, ‘Can I offer you a cookie? They are magic. They’ll help with the exam.’ Without fail, I’d get a shy, ‘Yes, please’, then a smile and a ‘Thank you’. I’m sure they helped.
There are so many ways we measure love in our lives, sometimes with our words, sometimes with our actions, sometimes with our smiles. I know it’s not the cup that put the love into my chocolate chip cookies, but I certainly felt like I was measuring out love every time I used it. I am so lucky to have opened that little gift so many years ago.
I can’t yet throw away my little broken cup. I’d like to figure out how to preserve it long enough to use it for little Andy to make at least one batch of cookies with me. Even with the hole in the bottom, I know the love hasn't run out.
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups and has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how measure love.