Celebrating a Birthday and a Friendship with a Plate of Goodness

For my birthday earlier this summer, a dear friend made me cookies. It was a wonderful gift and not one I had received in years – I’m usually the baker, not the one being baked for! The funny thing is, they were Cowboy Cookies from one of my favorite cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts. I make these cookies a lot, but mine always end up crispy hard within about two hours of coming out of the oven (a genetic thing I inherited from my mother); hers were of the melt-in-the-mouth variety…delicious. This past week, I had the chance to return the favor when she had a birthday. However, I also changed it up a bit.

So let me back up to that point between my birthday and my friend’s. In July, I was visiting my aunt in St. Charles, Illinois and popped into one of my favorite shops, Stonehouse on Cedar. It carries an ever-changing collection of antiques and handmade items, most of which fall into the category of beautiful and useful. On the clearance shelf was a butter-yellow plate, and with cookie crumbs virtually still in the corners of my mouth, a lightbulb went off and a “big idea” was born: For my friend’s birthday, I would give her baked goods on the plate and I would tell her we were starting a new tradition. Next year for my birthday, she would fill the plate with something delicious and return it to me; I would then pass the plate back to her for her birthday a few months later. (This does not sound like good etiquette here – telling her what to give me for my birthday – but it was fine in person.)

While I had planned to bake my friend cookies, I had been telling her about a wonderful gluten free bakery in a nearby town and decided to introduce her to it (she is on a gluten free diet). I took the plate over to Sweet Ali’s Gluten Free Bakery in Hinsdale, Illinois and picked out a sampler of cookies; the accommodating salespeople made it look “birthday like” by wrapping it all up with cellophane and a bow.

My friend loved the idea but suggested that whoever has the plate can choose when to pass it back – we could be celebrating a birthday or some other event, commemorating a holiday, or providing a lift when the other person could use it. I love how this idea has unfolded and each of us has added to it!


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