Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Taste (07/15/10)
TITLE: Savory Cookie-Talk
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Louise McArthur, a widowed, 80-year-old retired bakery owner, lived in a red brick bungalow situated just two blocks from the college campus. A rough hand-painted sign draped with ivy hung above her front door: “A cookie a day keeps the worries away.”
She was well known among female students as Lulu, the “cookie grandma” who offered free handouts to anyone who visited her kitchen table. On any given day, at any time of day, young women gathered to chit-chat and munch the cookies that filled her collection of oversized, clear-glass canisters: chocolate chip, peanut butter, snickerdoodle, and oatmeal raisin.
Lulu was a trustworthy confidant who seemed to process stories and catalog them in an endless file of confidentiality without falling prey to gossip. Unique physical characteristics only compounded her charisma. Her rotund, apron-shrouded belly shook like a bowlful of not-quite-set jell-o, while her clear blue eyes sparkled like those of Mrs. Claus. Although fresh-baked cookies were the drawing card, it was Lulu’s counsel and warm heart that kept students coming back.
One Monday afternoon around 3:00, Marlene and Georgia stopped in for a cookie. They’d discovered Lulu several months before, and were now regular visitors.
“Whew,” Marlene said, slinging her heavy book bag over the back of a ladder-back chair, “I REALLY need a cookie.” She clinked the metal lid on the oatmeal raisin canister, grabbed a reddish-brown, pebbly-looking orb, and plopped into the creaky chair with its woven lattice seat.
“Yeah. Me too.” Georgia opted for a criss-crossed peanut butter cookie, and gratefully sank into an overstuffed chair with body-shaped indentations that had been pulled next to the table. Within seconds she was nibbling crumbly chipmunk bites of cookie, lost in a reverie of seeming introspection.
“Well! How are my girls, anyway? What’s been going on with you two recently? Mmmm? Something you’d like to talk over? Let me guess. It has to do with those fellas you went out with – what were their names, Mike and Adam?”
Marlene waved her cookie ceremoniously and sat up tall in her chair. “Well, we just don’t get it. We don’t know how to choose good guys. You know, ones with strong character. How do you do that, Lulu?”
Both girls stared intently at the respective uneaten halves of their swiftly disappearing cookies, as if those morsels of flour and sugar held the answer to Marlene’s probing question.
“Character. Hmmmm. I’d say choosing men with strong character is a matter of good taste on your part.”
Bits of cookie flew from Georgia’s mouth as she shot back her reply. “Taste? TASTE? What are you talking about, Lulu? We’re dealing with MEN here, not COOKIES!”
Lulu’s laugh showed up as a tender smile, and her eyes flashed. “Yes, taste. You can taste relationships, you know. Some are salty, others sweet. A few are bitter, and every once in a while you find a savory one. Your relational taste buds won’t let you down.”
Marlene’s eyes narrowed. “Are you serious, Lulu? C’mon. Level with us.”
“Okay. Let’s talk about Mike and Adam. What convinced you to go out with them in the first place?” Lulu asked.
“Good looks,” said Marlene.
“Smooth talk,” added Georgia.
“Sounds like you might be drawn to sugar-coated relationships, and maybe salty ones, too,” Lulu replied, and before continuing. “Bitter ones are easy to spot - those that blatantly run over you like a steamroller. But the salty and sweet ones, now THEY can be tricky.”
The girls stared at Lulu, silently urging her to continue.
“You want savory relationships, my dears, with men who have deep down, satisfying appeal. They’re not just appetizing in a snack-like or dessert-like way, but are exemplary in their ability to respectably appreciate and complement you – and you, them.”
“I never thought of guys as having flavors …” Marlene said while finishing off her last bite of cookie.
“Me neither,” Georgia muttered.
“Now don’t miss the point! It’s YOU who cultivate the taste for strong character. And that appetite is what draws you to worthy men.”
The doorbell rang with its series of chimes, and Lulu stood and brushed her hands on her apron. “So I’d better see who’s at the door – someone else no doubt needs a cookie.” She flashed her patented smile and hugged each of them. “Keep me posted, alright? Examine your relational taste buds. It’s pretty easy to develop a sweet tooth or an addiction to saltiness.” She winked. “Savory. That’s the ticket.”
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