Thursday, February 22, 2007


Today, readers, we begin with a bit of pedantry. You may well think, "How does that differ from any other day?" but I beg you to remember that while I am frequently pedantic, I am even more frequently circumlocutory so that while I am often caught picking nits, it usually takes me a while to start.

Anyway. The title of today's post and today's cookie is an acronym. It is also an abbreviation, because all acronyms are abbreviations. The inverse, however, is not true. Sadly, there are people (horrible, horrible, bad, awful, naughty, evil, wicked people) in this world who use the terms as though they were interchangeable. Which, I must again aver, they are not. For an abbreviation to be an acronym, it must be pronounceable as a word. I might go so far as to say that it must be pronounceable with relative ease, but I would be on less than solid ground there, so I won't.

By way of example, if one abbreviates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as NASA, one has an acronym (as well as an abbreviation), because people generally will say "nassa" rather than "en ay ess ay." Contrariwise, if one abbreviates the Concorde supersonic transport as SST, one has an abbreviation (but not an acronym) because people will generally say "ess ess tee" rather then "sisst." I apologize for the inelegance of my transliteration, but it sort of proves my point. I also apologize for the probability that "transliteration" is the wrong word here, but I'm very tired.


Educating the blogosphere about all matters culinary is a tireless and thankless task, so it is perhaps not entirely surprising that I have as yet failed to eliminate all ignorance about certain culinary terms. (I am no longer on about acronyms. I am on about something else now. That last "anyway" was a sort of abrupt transition.) You probably already know, for example, that when one appends florentine to the name of a savory dish, one means that the dish is cooked with spinach. As it happens, sagwala has the same meaning, spinach being a food that is far too good to be claimed by only one culinary tradition.

There are many such terms, especially in the lexicon of haute cuisine, and some of them are quite well known. Others, sadly, remain obscure, including today's term: Whore of Babylon. In classic contemporary cooking, a dish is described as "whore of Babylon" if it appears to be out of control or to have too much going on.

Whore of Babylon is, as you may know, a Biblical term. It appears in the Revelations where the whore (as she is affectionately known to her friends) is described as
the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
Um. Yeah. Well, perhaps you see why if one is making a whore of Babylon dish for one's child to take to her fifth grade class so that the class might celebrate her eleventh birthday, one might wish to abbreviate whore of Babylon to "WOB" in order to avoid unpleasant questions and explanations. (As a side note, I was raised in the Southern Baptist church until I was eighteen or so, and I don't believe I ever heard any minister quote any verse that contained the word "fornication." Proving, yet again, that there is always something to be grateful for.)

As it happens, though, WOB (in case you're wondering, I believe that the French equivalent is grand guignol) foods generally (and these cookies in particular) are ideally suited for children, who appreciate delicious excess and colorful foods more than their adult counterparts do. Or at least the kids are more willing to admit it. Accordingly, my whore of Babylon oatmeal cookies (WOBOCs) have just about everything that I could think of to put in them, and they're terrific. If I were totally unrestrained, I might also have thrown in a half cup or so of peanut butter, but one learns early in these parts not to send to school any food that has ever been accused of consorting with peanuts. The only thing that I would really have liked to have done differently is to have used miniature m&ms instead of regular, plain m&ms. Alas, no minis were available, though it appears that they are now making some sort of mega m&m. (I do not approve. I also don't approve of peanut m&ms. I approve of mini m&ms only in recipes or when mixed into ice cream. Peanut butter m&ms are an abomination. I object on principle to almond m&ms, but you would be well advised not to come between me and a bowl of them.)

What the WOBOCs don't have is raisins. Don't blame me. When L. called me last evening to see why I wasn't home yet (during busy season, V. picks up the girls, and I make a huge effort to leave the office at 7 pm on the nights they're over; I have to sneak out of the office to accomplish this, and sometimes I get caught) and to ask what we'd be baking for her to take to school, and I told her that we'd be making some special oatmeal cookies, she said, "Without raisins, right?" and I said, "Yes, sweetie, I've already made my shopping list, and there are no raisins on it." I do believe, however, that a cup of craisins would be a felicitous addition here. Just don't try to serve them to L.

These cookies tend to retain more of their dome shape and spread out less than usual oatmeal cookies do. I added the water in the recipe to help them spread out a bit more, but it only made a small difference, and the shape they end up with is really fine. If you form them in a different shape or use a smaller cookie scoop, you will need to adjust the baking time. I used a large (1.75", I believe) cookie scoop, and I got 56 cookies. The thickness does mean that they're excellent with a cold glass of milk (or something similar). And pretty deadly without it. You have been warned.


1/2 lb. butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 c. water
1.5 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
3.5 c. rolled oats
1 c. unsalted roasted cashews
1.5 c. toasted coconut
1 c. miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. butterscotch chips
1 c. m&ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter in the bowl of your mixer. Add the sugars and cream again. Add, mixing well after each addition, the eggs, vanilla, water, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and rolled oats. Either mix or fold in the remaining ingredients until they are well distributed throughout the dough.

Using a large cookie scoop, place mounds of the cookie dough on lined baking sheets. They will spread some but not too much: on a half-sheet pan, you should be able to fit five rows of four cookies each.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes, or until done. Cool on the pans for about ten minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Feed to children or eat them yourself when you are sure that no one is looking.

Update: I asked L. how the WOBOCs (she wanted to call them Everything Cookies, but I insisted) had gone over at school, and she said that the kids were initially a bit put off by the list of ingredients (which, of course, you have to send along witht he cookies in case someone is allergic to something), so she told them to smell the cookies, and then demand increased sharply, and, after having eaten the WOBOCs, many of the kids wanted the recipe. L. told them that they couldn't have it because it's a family recipe. Smart kid.

We ate the last of the WOBOCs today, four days after they were baked. They were even better today: the coconut was asserting itself a bit more. I can't wait to make them at Christmas, with red and green m&ms.


Blogger Rebecca said...

Have you ever seen those black and white m&ms? They are really cool-looking and would look good in a cookie for a special occasion, like the Oscars or something?

8:01 PM  

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