Culinary Currency



Barter (v) – to exchange goods or services in return for other goods or services. It’s been going on since Nancy Neanderthal traded some tools with Kevin Cromagnon in exchange for a nice painting on her cave wall. Paying the plumber with poultry or carpenter with a goat is still practiced in certain circles today, and why not? Exchanging skills as payment is not only economical, but often leads to more traditionally paid arrangements when the paper stuff is more plentiful. I’ve been a big fan of the barter system pretty much all my life. Being raised in a family full of tradesmen and women, bartering a known skill for a needed one was routine. I started my life in the barter arts in kindergarten. My mom would pack healthy snacks of carrot sticks and apple slices in my lunchbox, which I would promptly trade for Ring Dings with Ronald, who traded them to Billy for baseball cards, who traded my healthy snacks to the class rabbit for a chance to cuddle. A perfect system of 5-year-old-commerce, and not a penny exchanged.

By the time I became an adult, my bartering skills were well honed and usually took the form of food for service. In other words, they worked for food. I’ve paid for airport pick-ups, car repairs, computer crash recovery, and many other services in times of plenty and not with edible currency. The secret is to know your trade-ee. I can get a friend of mine to help with just about anything for a pan of linzertorte, members of my family can be enlisted for various jobs with the promise of my veggie lasagna, and I’ve been paying my accountant with baked goods ever since I got laid off. All this got me to thinking. What if there was a set system of culinary currency similar to the denomination of the bills in our pocket? Last year I bartered a tray of peanut butter swirl brownies for my 1040 filing, but what about (heaven forbid) an audit? Certainly I’d have to up it to red velvet cake with chocolate guts, right? And what about other services? A car inspection might run a few dozen garbage-can cookies, but if unexpected repairs are needed, you’re definitely talking a tray of Granny Elsie’s Tarted Up Mac and Cheese too. Considering all of this, I think I’d better get a recipe of severed body part cookies ready – I have an appointment with the doctor next week.

This year, my very kind accountant received payment in Taxman Oatmeal Cookies. I wonder if the IRS will accept them too…

Taxman Oatmeal Cookies

Makes about 5 -6 dozen

  • 1 stick (8 TBSP) softened butter
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cups oatmeal (I use a combination of quick cook and old-fashioned)
  • ¾ cup golden raisins
  • ¾ cup roasted almonds, chopped
  • Zest from one orange

Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl), cream the butter and shortening together with the sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well until thoroughly incorporated. Add in the almond and vanilla extracts and orange zest and mix well. Beat in the flour mixture until fully mixed. Measure out the oatmeal, raisins and nuts into the bowl you used for dry ingredients, and toss together a bit to distribute everything evenly. Add to the cookie dough and mix until well incorporated — I start this in the mixer, but finish with my hands so there isn’t a pile of dry oats at the bottom of the bowl.

Drop the dough by heaping teaspoon onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving about a half-inch between. These aren’t going to spread too much, so I like to squash them down a bit with the heel of my hand before they go in the oven.

Bake 10-12 minutes until the edges are just starting to brown. Cool on a rack, and store in airtight container. They also freeze well for the next time you need some culinary currency. Calories: approximately 75-80 per cookie, depending on yield.

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