Your School Meeting Baking Guide
You know how fine dining guides and cookbooks will give you tips on wine pairings? I’m terrible at that; my feeling about wine is “it’s good and you should drink the kind you like regardless of what you’re eating,” so I’m the wrong person to query about the proper vintage to go with your risotto. On the other hand, I am absolutely the right person to ask about what to bake for school meetings.
See, there’s usually one of two reactions when I tell people I never go to a meeting at school without a basket of home-baked goodies: People either think I’m a genius, or they think I’m being “too nice.” Here’s a little secret I’ve learned after a decade of special education meetings with a wide variety of teachers and school administrators: There’s no such thing as “too nice.” Most of the time I’m meeting with folks who have a vested interest in helping my children and who are amazing and well-meaning. Those people deserve treats! Some of the time I’m meeting with folks who are rude and/or unhelpful. Those people also deserve treats, because I’m setting a tone of kindness and cooperation… and even if I’m offering those treats through gritted teeth, I try to remember that people who are making my life more difficult probably aren’t all that happy, themselves. With that in mind, here’s a handy….
School Meeting Baking Chart:
Early morning non-emergency meeting. (This would include plan renewals or other routine sorts of check-ins.) Go with a muffin that’s hearty and healthy; you want something yummy, but not overly sweet. You’re going for “I’m a responsible human who enjoys a balanced diet but still wants to bring you baked goods.”
Best selections: Raisin oat bran, morning glory, anything with rolled oats.
Early morning kind-of-an-emergency meeting. (Called because there is An Issue you’d like the school to address.) These meetings call for a lighter and sweeter muffin. Citrus will make the room smell good and kind of brighten everyone’s outlook, which is a subtle way to make things more pleasant. You’re going for “I realize this is a difficult conversation but I think we could all use a little treat.”
Best selections: Orange cranberry, lemon poppy, anything with berries.
Early morning sorry-my-kid-is-such-a-butthead meeting. (Called because there is An Issue for which your child is culpable.) If you must stick with muffins, now is the time to pull out all the stops: go with a streusel or icing topping (or both, if things are really bad). Even better: make scones. Scones are impressive. You’re going for “I am totally pretending not to grovel with my baking but I am totally groveling with my baking.”
Best selections: Apple fritter muffin, cinnamon streusel muffin, any flavor scone.
(Note: In the case of A True Crisis, I Am Going To Kill That Child, from-scratch cinnamon rolls—preferably utilizing a Cinnabon copycat recipe—may be warranted. Proceed with caution and bring extra napkins.)
Midday or after-school non-emergency meeting. Again, your message is one of moderation but taste. This is a good time for the kinds of cookies your children like to insist aren’t really cookies because where’s the chocolate, Mom?? Don’t make anything so healthy that it’s no longer a treat, though. (Any cookie recipe which uses whole wheat flour doesn’t count.)
Best selections: Oatmeal raisin cookies, homemade granola bars, macaroons, mini-meringues.
Midday or after-school kind-of-an-emergency meeting. This is a great time to bust out any “family favorite” cookie recipe. When in doubt, use chocolate chips. You have a wide field of discretion, here, in that you’re going for sweet treats that won’t lead to a sugar coma but cannot be mistaken for health food.
Best selections: Chocolate chip cookies, gooey bars, lace cookies, any cookie that’s made someone spontaneously declare, “I need this recipe.”
Midday or after-school sorry-my-kid-is-such-a-butthead meeting. Go for the sugar coma. Make it clear that you’ve spent a significant amount of time in the kitchen wishing things had turned out differently. Your goal is a treat so delicious, your child’s sins may be forgiven in a haze of diabetic ecstasy.
Best selections: Cake (with frosting), homemade versions of whoopie pies or Oreos, truffles.
Christmas is coming! Here’s your bonus recommendations:
Winter break teacher gifts, no active crises. This is the perfect time to hand out entire buckets of assorted baked goods, assuming that you’ve already had enough interaction with these teachers to know that they tend to appreciate your offerings. If they like everything and nothing difficult is happening, bake an assortment, pack it up in something pretty, and wish ’em happy holidays.
Best selections: I like to go with at least four options—one traditional holiday (I do old-fashioned molasses), one “broad-appeal” (like chocolate chip), one that’s simply pretty (generally a shaped and/or frosted sugar or mint cookie), and one slightly more decadent offering (fudge or bark).
Winter break teacher gifts, recent or low-level active crises. Have you been paying attention to which teachers like what? Good. Give them their favorite, whatever that is. I have one school person who doesn’t eat sweets at all, so for Christmas I’ll make spiced nuts now that I know what they’d actually like.
Best selections: Whatever you decide to make, make it the prettiest and the most delicious batch of it ever.
Winter break teacher gifts, active and hair-pulling crises. Sometimes baked goods simply aren’t enough. Recognize and honor those times.
Best selections: Money, booze, tears. (Kidding! I’m kidding. No one wants your tears.) (Still just kidding! You could get in trouble for giving booze or money. So, um, don’t ever give money. And I would never recommend booze because that would be wrong. Would you like a cookie…?)