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My daughter was born 6 years ago. I never envisioned then that she would one day be selling beer coozies at an event that I was throwing. And I certainly never envisioned that I would be immensely proud of her for shaming grown men into purchasing a neoprene sleeve for their can of beer.
“Do you want a coozie?” she would ask bearded men as they passed the merchandise table on a crisp October day last year. If they failed to stop, she would chide them with words that bit like wind.
“You’re missing out. Your beer is going to get warm, you know,” she would admonish as they walked away, grinning and shaking their heads.
It’s not a stretch to say that my daughter is familiar with beer. My son, 3 years her junior, will hand whatever cylindrical toy he is holding to me and announce loudly that it is my beer. This is humorous when it’s just my wife and I; but less so when my in-laws or company is alongside me.
My parents drink infrequently. I didn’t grow up with a dad who had a cocktail after work. As a result, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to drink in front of my children in the past year. It’s also because I’ve been drinking at 11 a.m. alone in my kitchen and out in bars with regularity. Before you get worried about me, I’ll tell you it was for work. And now that you’re really worried about me, I’ll explain what that work entailed.
“You’re missing out. Your beer is going to get warm, you know,” she would admonish as they walked away.
I spent the past year writing and researching Cookies & Beer, a cookbook that teaches folks how to pair cookies and beer. Since I make the dinner in my house, I was often making the family meal while testing cookie recipes. Sometimes that meant the family meal was cookies.
On those occasions, I’d use my wife as independent verification when I had a new cookie and beer marriage I was trying to nail down, something like Russian Tea Cakes and Odell’s 90 Shilling Ale. My kids knew that their participation in this grand experiment would be as cookie testers.
My wife and I have held a firm line when it comes to drinks in our house. We used to be soda drinkers. We kicked the habit, but having soda in our house led to an important distinction that has come to define all of the drinks at the dinner table. Soda was a ‘mom and dad drink,’ or ‘adult drink.’ That term was extended to coffee, wine, and beer. Over time, we started sprinkling in words like caffeine and alcohol. Today, our kids ask before taking a sip out of any glass that is not their own. Somewhere, Spaulding Smails is smiling.
While I was worried about the recycling bin that looked like it belonged in front of a college fraternity house, I didn’t even think about the other half of the cookbook. Cookies & Beer turned out to be a Trojan Horse for cookies in our house.
It was in the midst of making those Russian Tea Cakes that I thought we might have a problem in Kansas City. My daughter sat at the dining room table, rolling the slightly warm tea cakes in powdered sugar, alternating between putting them on a plate and licking her fingers.
I was often making the family meal while testing cookie recipes. Sometimes that meant the family meal was cookies.
“Dad, can we have powdered sugar for dinner?” asked my daughter.
“No, we have to have food for dinner,” I answered.
“Well. You know you’re missing out, right?” she replied.
And I just grinned and slowly shook my head before handing her another cookie.
Jonathan Bender is the author of Cookies and Beer, a new cookbook that brings together two things that should have never been separated in the first place. It’s 40 cookie recipes from bakeries, pastry chefs and breweries, that are each given their forever beer pairing/style.