One Cookie to rule them all, One Cookie to find them, One Cookie to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them
For the most part, I think most people feel helpless when faced with the big, vague Issues. Take Injustice. Or Suffering. Or Torture. Or Poverty. (No, really. Take them.)
These are concepts too large for a human brain to really conceive. Twelve million children in America have too little food? I can't even hold a detailed picture of more than 150 hungry people in my little brain. They begin to smear together and lose their distinctions as individual people. Beyond 150 or so, they're an anonymous crowd.
Twelve million people is so far beyond my mental abilities as to seem unreal. Imaginary. Like all those billions of stars they tell me are out there. I live in New York where I see Orion. Occasionally. And maybe a dipper if I'm very lucky. The other billions of stars are a kind of fiction to me. Like those 12 million starving children.
When faced with capital-"i" Issues, I think many people have similar feelings. What can I do? I can't do anything. I'm just me. I'm small and not very capable. My superpowers are extremely limited.
But small actions committed en mass actually do make a difference.
For example, I found out last week from the people at Earth Pledge that the temperature in a city like NYC can be up to 10°F hotter than the surrounding countryside. It's known as the Urban Heat Island effect, and it's caused by heat reflected off urban surfaces (read: apartments, offices, bodegas, schools, etc.) and heat created by all the little people running around on, around and in those surfaces doing the things that people do.
Ten degrees. That's a significant change made by the ordinary activities of a few million individuals like me.
Similarly, I'd encourage you to consider the impact you can make in your kitchen. The Share Our Strength Great American Bake Sale begins this weekend. It's their summer-long campaign intended to inspire people to bake, eat, donate and take thousands of small actions toward alleviating the childhood hunger in America. (Those with dietary concerns and carbon qualms can, of course, simply donate to the cause without munching or baking.)
SOS hosts a number of great programs, but this one seems particularly joyous: Battling issues with muffin power! Taking on poverty with pie pans! Fleets of cookies flying into action!
For my part, I'm organizing my office team and bringing treats with which to woo my co-workers on Friday mornings throughout the campaign, which runs from May 19 through August 31.
Do my tangy lemon bars (see recipe below) or rhubarb-apple crisp make a big difference? No. They make a small difference. Alongside a nation's brigade of brownies and sky-darkening clouds of oatmeal-raisin cookies, my lemon bars contribute to a ten-degree kind of difference. My lemon bars are a tiny force for good.
Want to start your own bake sale? SOS kicks off this Saturday. Sign up today at the Share Our Strength site.
A Terribly Sincere Batch of Lemon Bars (Makes 24 bars)
For the shortbread crust:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose or pastry flour
A pinch of salt
For the lemon filling:
Grated zest from 3 lemons
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly butter a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Combine the flour and salt and blend into the butter mixture.
3. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and sides of the pan with lightly floured fingertips, raising about a 1/2-inch ledge around the pan sides.
4. Bake for 20 minutes, and cool on a wire rack before you make the filling.
5. To make the filling, whisk together the sugar, eggs, zest, juice and flour.
6. Pour lemon mixture over the cooled crust, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the filling looks set (not liquid). Cool to room temperature in the pan.
Keep, covered and chilled, for up to three days. Before serving, cut into squares and dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.