In & Out of the Kitchen: The case of the missing cookies

Chocolate-dipped butter sandwiches filled with jam are packed and ready to go. 

Chocolate-dipped butter sandwiches filled with jam are packed and ready to go. 

Nothing says “I’m thinking of you” to a sick friend like homemade cookies.

My friend Wayne, a high-level butter cookie fan, had been undergoing treatment in a large city far from home. So that he’d know we care and are thinking of him, I made and mailed him several batches of cookies during that time.

You may have read the usual tips for mailing cookies: bars and drop cookies travel better than delicate ones; choose hard cookies over crumbly ones.

I’ve never done it but thought, how hard can it be?

There are learning curves involved in mailing cookies, and you hit the first one with the U.S. Postal Service. Before I mailed a single cookie I went online to research the best way to do it. Priority Mail Express, the fastest method, is pricey. I went with regular Priority Mail, which takes up to three days.

One good thing about using Priority Mail is that you can bring home the box before you’re ready to ship. You don’t have to look around for a box, and you don’t even pay for it until you’re ready to mail it.

I picked the small flat-rate box, a little bigger than 8-by-5 inches and about an inch-and-a-half thick. That would hold about two dozen small to medium cookies. Then I went home to bake.

I baked early in the morning, and packed and got them to the post office as soon as they cooled so they were as fresh as possible when they went out.

The first batch was drop cookies, with white and dark chocolate chips, dried cranberries and cashews. They arrived safely; I was happy to see a photo of Wayne holding one up in the hospital, a smile on his face.

Several other batches went out, and since the weather was cool I decided to make chocolate-dipped butter sandwiches filled with jam.

I texted photos of the whole cookie-baking process to Wayne: the imported butter softened on the counter; the cooling cookies; the completed chocolate-dipped cookies; the packed and addressed box.

Then I headed to the post office and sent them off, and texted a copy of the receipt with the tracking number.

The cookies never arrived. I put the tracking number into the USPS website and discovered my package was officially missing. I could fill out a claim, if I wanted, since the box came with a small amount of insurance.

Step one: You can file a claim after 15 days and before 60. Check.

Step two: gather your documents. Receipt: check. Proof of value: sales receipt, credit card billing statement, paid invoice, etc. Wait a minute, how do you put a value on home-baked cookies?

And there I was stuck. Being a cheapskate, I can produce grocery receipts from the past 10 years. I could put a value on the flour, butter and chocolate, but the homemade apricot jam that Wayne made, that I used to fill the cookies? Or the cost of turning those ingredients into something special? You can’t put a cost on those.

It turned out that Wayne was moved into a new apartment by the medical center during this time. And the concierge at the former place, “was not helpful,” Wayne said, in his typically polite way.

The package showed up at my house six weeks later, “send back to sender” written on it in fat marker. One end had been opened and then taped up.

The weather had gotten hot and the chocolate had melted. The cookies were a mess.

I was disappointed but the squirrels were thrilled.

There have been several batches of cookies since, all delivered by me in my car to Wayne’s house now that he’s home.

I don’t really blame the Postal Service; I suspect the concierge in the prior building sat on the package for a while, even though he knew Wayne’s forwarding address.

Did the concierge feel a pang of guilt and send the package back after a while, or was he or she motivated by the fact that if a person steals parcels or letters from the the USPS, and is caught and charged with a crime, they (from the USPS website in bold letters) “may serve a prison sentence that lasts as much as three years”?

We’ll never know.

Wayne is feeling better and still gets deliveries of cookies. But I’ll take care of that myself from now on.

He’s home now, and doing better.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts


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