Some food memories are built over time - meals eaten every year for Christmas, or special treats every summer, and so on. But other memories are just single snapshots from one precise moment, which for one reason or another made a permanent impression.
I have one such very precise memory of making chocolate chip cookies with my aunt Sara in her kitchen. Making cookies was already a special thing to do when I was a kid, and it was even more special to be doing it together at my aunt's house. I really remember that it was something we were doing together, like she was really giving me her full attention. This makes sense, because Sara really values connecting with people.
We got to the part of the recipe where we were about to add vanilla, and I think it called for 1 teaspoon of vanilla - and this is the part I remember so specifically: Sara suggested we add more than that. She said something like "I really like vanilla." I know this sounds crazy, but that really blew my my little childhood mind. Even as a little kid, I was a "follow the rules" kinda girl - and I am still that way (for better and for worse). I didn't know you could just add extra vanilla because you felt like it! It's still relatively uncommon for me to mess around with a recipe I am using. I mostly cook from cookbooks, and it's only in the last couple of years that I have gotten a bit more brave and creative about modifying recipes.
my go-to choco-chip cookie recipe is "Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies"
from Vive La Vegan, with extra vanilla, of course
But Sara is not like that at all! She is spontaneous and playful and loves to mix things up! She's lived a life full of amazing and decidedly unconventional choices. Right down to putting extra vanilla in her chocolate chip cookies. Here's the kind of amazing thing: I make cookies pretty often, and I almost always add a little extra vanilla extract, and every single time I think of my aunt Sara and the permission she gave me, in that moment, to think outside the box and make my cookies the way I like them.