Conflict Solving Cookies

There is nothing I love more than cooking.

The days of pouring over InStyle magazine or a good piece of fiction have been replaced with books full of delicious pictures and pages upon pages of recipes.   Cooking isn’t just about satisfying one’s taste buds, or even an expression of creativity.  Rather, it can be an incredibly powerful tool.  Even enemies can see through division to each other’s humanity and solve conflicts over a plate of nourishing fare (demonstrated in this powerful NY Times article).

Where there is conflict, there is a struggle for one’s deepest needs to be recognized and acknowledged.  Fighting on the outside can sometimes be a mask for someone fighting for something that is deep down on the inside, invisible yet vital.  This we experienced one day when a fight happened between two boys in our after-school program.   I knew that it wasn’t based on obvious issues swirling around these two young men.  It was about deeper needs, desires, and struggles.

We planned to sit down and have a mediation to uncover the root of what was going on between these two boys and to give them a space to talk and try and find some common ground to stand on.   I knew, however, that it wouldn’t be enough.  Our house isn’t school, with a principle waiting around the corner.  It isn’t the courtroom where a judge sits in the other room holding their fate in her hands.  These are 11-year-olds, barely grown out of childhood, stuck somewhere between kid and teenager.  We needed something else that might get through to them, something that would make the experience – and the lesson – stick.

What about food?

Cookies are like neighborhoods, we decided.   Ingredients are the actions that we put into that neighborhood.   Let’s make “peace cookies” together, and talk about the kind of neighborhood we want to live in…the kind of cookie we want to eat.  Do we want glue in our cookie? Fighting in our neighborhood? Or do we want kindness on our streets and sugar in our cookies?    One by one, we went through each ingredient and each corresponding action.    Respect or Disrespect?  Plastic beads or butter?

The result was an enjoyable activity, a lesson demonstrated, and not to mention a delicious batch of cookies with all of the right ingredients in them.  As they baked, those important ingredients came together and filled the house with an unbelievable aroma.  Sugar, butter, chocolate…and hope.  Hope for a neighborhood full of respect, understanding, thoughtfulness, and dignity.

Peace Cookies

Beat together:

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup peanut butter

2/3 cup butter


2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

Sift in:

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir, then add:

1 cup quick oats

1/2 bag peanut butter chips

1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Bake for 11 minutes at 350 degrees

Eat warm with neighbors, friends and enemies.