Almost a Media Star

GWYNETH B. HOWARD

December 01, 1992|By GWYNETH B. HOWARD

Nowadays, surrounded by ubiquitous hand-held cameras, we're all just waiting our turn to be discovered. The bodacious frail with the great skin, the hunk, the expert, the auteur, the ''character,'' those Vanity Fair personae, even Rodney King, could all have been my friends at one time or another. They just got theirs before I got mine.

My turn finally came at a recent church social. It was on account of my cookies. Not that I make great cookies. I eat great cookies, but I have never made them. My cookies are the kind that well-intended cookie people put on the bottom of the plate to support the great cookies. My cookies are the Beta models, the ones that arrive too late or too early, the ''interesting'' ones that remain behind at the end of a successful coffee hour. Such it seemed was to be the case this time as well. Until they were discovered.

''Who made this?'' a well-manicured voice inquired from the other side of the refreshment table.

''Who made what?'' I looked out over the coffee urn. There was a lady holding one of my cookies in her fingers. I could tell it was mine because I had hacked it up off the cookie sheet two hours earlier. Mine were the only hacked ones at this particular church function.

''What do you want to know for?'' I asked, for a moment wondering if I had really had gotten all the nut shells out of the batter.

''This is a wonderful cookie!'' the lady said. ''I want the recipe.''

''Well, I'm glad you liked it.'' I said, shyly 'fessing up that it was mine, ''but . . . it's an old family recipe, and one I really can't give out. . . . I promised my mother.'' Wildly, I improvised the excuse as I had earlier improvised the cookie.

''I don't just want the recipe,'' the lady told me, ''I want to write about you and your wonderful cookies and take a picture of you in your kitchen making them.''

It turned out she was the reporter for the house and home section of a local paper. And she was serious!

''Oh, no,'' I said, ''You don't want to do a story about my kitchen!''

She thought I was just being modest. ''But I do.'' she insisted.

A cold sweat bespattered my brow. How to fob her off? Should I admit that my kitchen was genuinely unprintable? The place where elephants go to die? But to admit that would be to shake her confidence in the cookie that started all this. My cookie! And in that cookie also rested her sense of self-worth! Her cookie-judging expertise (and more than a few hazel-nut shells!).

Desperate, I said, ''There are a lot of ladies here who make really good cookies and they would probably love to have you do a story about them. Let me find you one.''

This she viewed as extremely self-effacing -- considering the context, a church social, perhaps even as a form of divine unction; she was having none of it. ''Here's my card,'' she said, ''give me a call and we'll set up a date.''

Well, eventually I got word to her, through her machine, that brokering peace in the Slovakias was taking up all my time just now, and she has never gotten back to me.

But I did tell my daughter, who once called a batch of my cookies ''disappointing,'' about this near brush with notoriety. I might even have been gloating.

She looked at me gravely and shook her head. ''Now when I hear people complain about media coverage, I'll know what they're talking about,'' she said.

And I really am getting worried. Have I missed my 10 seconds in the klieg lights? Has the moment passed me by? I have rehearsed many an imaginary NPR interview on ''my novel,'' or my collection of essays as I hunt the petty cash out from between the sofa cushions and vacuum the dog. But maybe it was really all about my cookies, and that's the only chance I get?

Gwyneth B. Howard writes from Darlington.

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