The street that runs through the center of Thomaston, is one of the most picturesque main thoroughfares in any small town in Midcoast Maine. Stretching little more than one block, between multistory brick buildings dating to the 1800s, you’ll find a pizza place, a laundromat, a few real estate offices, and a cafe. There’s the fire department, the town office, a few sketchy apartments, and, recently opened in the parking lot behind the high school, a bar. This tiny stretch of small town Maine was my very, very limited stomping ground in 1995 and 1996, when I attended the now-defunct Georges Valley High School. I was a member of my high school’s Drama Club (which, looking back, was really more of a “Kids Who Were Experimenting With Sex Early” Club), and was spending a lot of time at play rehearsals at Thomaston’s Odd Fellows Hall.
During that time, I made almost daily stops at a combination gas station/agency liquor store called, wildly grammatically incorrectly, “Pik Qwik.” It’s the kind of place that does a LOT of business selling Powerball tickets and airline-sized bottles of liquor. The kind of place where you have to ask for the key to the rest room outside, where a fresh coat of beige paint will cover layer upon layer of obscene, Sharpied limmerick, hateful racist rant, and shockingly clinical anatomical drawing. The kind of place where you wouldn’t bat an eyelash at seeing piles of deer carcasses hanging out of the back of a beat-up old pickup truck out front, surrounded by men in wide red suspenders and orange overalls, spitting deer lure-scented tobacco. There’s a lukewarm hot bar serving up dried-out pieces of “Chester Fried” gas station chicken, potato wedges, and mozzarella sticks. And next to the cash registers, individually wrapped in Saran Wrap, with no labels or markings of any kind, are a basket of homemade no-bake cookies that someone made with care in their very own kitchen.
To me, this one, simple fact is what makes living in small towns so incredible. I don’t know where these cookies came from. I don’t know who made them, and under what kind of sanitary conditions, and whether any kind of health regulations were observed in their creation. I don’t know what the ingredients are, what the serving size is, or what the nutritional content of each cookie could possibly be. I don’t even know if selling them is legal. Nobody in town does, and nobody cares. Because every time I have stopped in Thomaston at Pik Qwik, for my entire adult life, those cookies have been there. It’s an incredibly comforting fact. It’s not an incredibly special cookie, mind you: a soft, loose, sometimes grainy assembly of cocoa powder, butter, sugar, and oatmeal, so sweet that it makes your throat itch and your uvula lay lazily on the back of your tongue. That doesn’t matter. Knowing that they have been there for at least the last sixteen years, and that they will continue to be there every time I pass through town, is enough.
Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies
Makes about a dozen large cookies
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 4 tablespoons cocoa
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 3 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups oatmeal
- Shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, raisins, or peanut butter chips (optional)
- Waxed paper or parchment
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk. Bring to a hard boil, and let boil for one minute. Add peanut butter, vanilla, and oatmeal, and stir until combined. Drop by the tablespoonful onto waxed paper or parchment. Optionally, top with shredded coconut, chopped nuts, or anything else you can think of. Let cool until hardened, and serve.