Mom brought me some peanut butter cookies and a biography of Judy Garland.
Postcards from the Edge, Carrie Fisher
My grandmother had a collection of jars that lived on the top of her fridge. During the school holidays, we’d spend days with her and my Grandad, swinging around the washing line in the garden, or playing pick-up-sticks on the thickly carpeted living room floor. When my dad showed up to collect us, he’d reach up to the jars, and bring one down to the kitchen bench. Grandma made jam drops, Anzac biscuits, and the most extraordinarily delicious peanut butter biscuits, and he couldn’t visit her house without having one. They remain my favourite to this day.
When I make them now, I still eat them alongside a glass of milk. Adding a little sprinkle of salt feels compulsory (though Grandma wouldn’t have included it); it’s a perfect counterpart to the sweet, caramel, chewiness of the biscuit. I also under-bake mine, so that they remain fudgy in the centre, soft enough that they’d be in danger of sticking together in my Grandma’s jar. But regardless of my little tweaks, they remain a comforting taste of home – one that takes me right back to her kitchen in Alderley. I was desperate for a batch as soon as I read this line, twenty years after I last ate one.
I adore Carrie Fisher. Like so many people, of course, I was introduced to her aged 10, watching her on screen in a long white dress, with her hair twisted like Danish pastries on either side of her head. I loved her humour, and her warmth, and her sarcasm as Princess Leia. As a teenager, I revelled in her portrayal of the ‘rom com best friend’, which had as much to do with her performance as Marie as with Nora Ephron’s superlative script for When Harry Met Sally. In recent years, her pitch-perfect role in Catastrophe (alongside her dog Gary) was a complete joy.
It turns out I have also been enjoying her writing (without knowing it) for years. She put her mark onto so many films in the 90s and 2000s as a script doctor: Hook, Sister Act, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I read her autobiography a little while back, and then found Postcards from the Edge, which she wrote first as a book in 1987, and then as a screenplay for the 1990 film. Featuring a complex mother/daughter relationship, and drawing on her experience of addiction, it’s wry, sardonic, and unflinchingly unromantic. The peanut butter cookies feel, if anything, out of place in the narrative – I’m not convinced Suzanne ever eats them. But they’re there, a little missive from home.
Peanut Butter Cookies
125g crunchy peanut butter
100g light brown sugar
75g golden caster sugar
200g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Flaky sea salt
Mixer or mixing bowl and electric whisk
1. Beat the butter and peanut butter together until light and creamy. Add the light brown and golden caster sugars and continue beating until they have dissolved into the butter and no longer feel grainy – give them a good few minutes.
2. Add the vanilla and the egg, and beat until combined. The mixture may separate slightly but don’t worry – the flour is going in next.
3. Sieve the flour, baking powder and bicarb into the mixture, and beat again until combined. Transfer the bowl to the fridge for at least an hour, ideally overnight.
4. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan). Once the dough is chilled and firm, roll it into ping-pong sized balls. Space the dough balls out on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, and press them down with a fork to flatten them.
5. Transfer to the oven for 14 minutes. At this stage, the dough will still be soft, but it will continue to harden once out of the oven. If you prefer firmer, crunchier biscuits, leave them in the oven for 16 minutes, until golden brown. Either way, when you pull them out of the oven, sprinkle the tops with flaky sea salt
6. Cool on the tray for five minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack.