Unlike most of my peers on the North Shore, my mother never sent me to sleep-away camp for the summer. She viewed it as an excuse for lazy parenting, a way to get rid of your children for the summer so you wouldn't have to deal with them while they weren't in school (which is not to say that camp isn't an enriching experience, and that many children enjoy it.) Instead, she would enroll me in classes every summer, to learn a new skill, or hone the ones I already had. Usually, it was some sort of art class -- drawing, ceramics, jewelry-making, glass-beadmaking, computer graphics -- but occasionally, a more practical skill like sewing would be thrown into the mix. One year, when I was around eight or nine, one of the classes was cooking.

I had never really helped out in the kitchen before, but the class taught important fundamentals like how to measure properly, and basic kitchen safety. Most of the food we prepared in that class was terrible -- one meatloaf recipe stands out in my mind as being particularly foul -- but the class yielded one recipe that has been a keeper in our family ever since: snickerdoodles. Dad loved the chewy, cinnamony treats, and would frequently request them for special occasions. In fact, the batch of which I write today was prepared over the weekend in honor of Father's Day. They're also a favorite of my friend Abel, who was one of the first recipients of the recipe, and who continues to bake them for himself and his friends in Japan. Over the years, they've emerged as what I would consider my signature cookie recipe, even if they're not necessarily my favorites to eat myself.

Ironically, the recipe which has come to be my specialty is also the one that kept me away from the oven for years. On the day in that cooking class when we baked them, I went to take the cookie sheet out of the oven, and did so with one hand. Having the arm strength of a young child, I inevitably lost my grip on it, causing me to scorch my arm on the oven rack above it. I still have the scar from the resulting burn, and for years, I refused to go anywhere near an oven. I would help prepare things that went in the oven, such as mixing cookie dough or cake batter, and I'd even place things on the sheet or in a pan, but I refused to physically put anything in the oven, or remove it. It wasn't until I went to college and I no longer had any choice that I started baking on my own, and once I got over my fear of being burned, I started truly baking in earnest and haven't stopped since.

makes approximately 3 dozen

2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. white sugar
1 c. salted butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 Tbs. white sugar
1 Tbs. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300.
1. In small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon for topping; set aside.
2. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix well with a wire whisk.
3. In mixer, blend brown and white sugar.
4. Add butter to mixer and mix until it forms a grainy paste.
5. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until light and fluffy.
6. Add the flour mixture and blend at low speed until combined. Don't over mix!
7. Refrigerate dough 1-3 hours.
8. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.
9. Bake 18-20 minutes, then immediately transfer to cooling racks.

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