As I watched the inauguration last month, I couldn't help but smile. I wondered if the cookies I'd baked for the Obama family's Thanksgiving dinner had contributed to this moment in history.
My friend, Joan, is the mother-in-law of President Obama's half-sister, Maya. As soon as she told me about her Thanksgiving plans, my mind started to whirl. "Howard and I are driving to Chicago to have Thanksgiving with Obama and the family," she said.
I was quiet for a moment. I thought frantically about the skills I possessed that would make it impossible for her to leave me behind. "I'm great at carrying luggage," I offered. When she stayed silent, I tried again. "What about my sense of humor? I tell a good joke, and could help lighten the stress from these grueling days on the campaign trail." I was getting nowhere.
That's when the idea hit me. If I couldn't go, I could send cookies in my place. But not just any cookies – the $100 Pecan Cookies, which always inspired a win. And a win was just what they were after – this was my chance to influence history!
More than 25 years ago, the friend who gave me the recipe said, "The woman who submitted this recipe to a contest won $100, and that's why they're called, $100 Pecan Cookies." I didn't think much of it at the time. I just wanted the recipe because I thought they were the best cookies I'd ever tasted.
Soon after that, my workplace had a cookie contest. I submitted the $100 Pecan Cookies and they won first place! They weren't easy to make, but people loved them.
And so with winning on my mind, I baked and boxed up a batch for my friend to take to the Obama holiday feast. I tied some string around a plain white box and tucked a note under it, telling Mr. Obama how much I admired him. I thought a presidential candidate might be too busy to open a wrapped present, and that's why, to make things easier, I used the string. But it wasn't just any string, it was gold and glittery, befitting a grand occasion.
When Joan got back, I asked her how it went. She said it was wonderful, but made no mention of the cookies. Not wanting to seem too eager for praise, I waited. Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer. "What about the cookies?"
"Oh, sorry, yes, they loved them. They were great. In fact, they sent you this as a thank-you." She opened a drawer, took out something, and handed it to me. It was a lovely presidential campaign bag with a tag attached to it that had Oprah's signature on it. I kept the bag on my lap for a while, beaming.
I still have it, and although many features stand out, the one that thrills me the most is its size: It's just right for a big batch of cookies. I keep it in the kitchen, hanging on the wall right above my recipe box. After all, you never know when you'll be invited to the White House for dinner.