Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not just another cute cookie

Every since I was about five or six I can remember my mother baking and using the leftover pie dough to make shaped cookies for me, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Some of the cookie cutters were aluminum with little wooden handles and others were all aluminum. One Christmas I received my own little bake set with miniature plastic cookie cutters and I still remember how much fun I had baking with my mom, side by side.

About twenty-five years ago a neighbor brought over Christmas cookies for my children, all decorated in holiday shapes. These cookies tasted just like a cookie from one of my earliest memories when I was about three or four, living on a farm in Missouri and visiting an elderly neighbor down the road with my sister Mary. I asked my neighbor if she would share her recipe and she kindly agreed. My neighbor was about sixty at the time and she had been given the recipe about forty years earlier from an elderly friend she knew.

The next Christmas I bought a few cookie cutters, made my first batch of dough, cut, baked, and let my kids invite a friend to decorate cookies. And so the tradition began. My sister’s eyes lit up when she tasted a cookie and wanted to know where I got the recipe. After all these years, we were both amazed how one cookie could conjure up the same memory in both of us. The cookie wasn’t exact. I am sure the shortening was lard, in the old days, and the flour originally used wasn’t as processed as it is today. Aside from that it was as close as we were probably going to get.

Every year I have increased the number of batches of cookie dough and now I usually bake about sixteen dozen cookies from two inches to eight or ten inches. There are snowmen, trees, snowflakes, reindeer, stars, houses, bells, and more. I make frosting in every color from red and green, to pink, black, and purple, with sprinkles, and candies to decorate the cookies.

Michael was the only one of my children who lived near me last Christmas when I baked cookies so he got to invite four friends to decorate cookies. It doesn’t matter how old you are when decorating cookies, the kids always seems to come out. Not to be left out, I boxed up cookies to take to California for my other two children to decorate at their grandmother’s when they arrived. Somehow Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the cookies.

Every year I find a new cookie cutter to add to my collection and last year it was a frog. I don’t go looking for a new cutter, something just seems to come my way and that is what happened last week. My son Jim and his girlfriend Heather were visiting from California and they came in from shopping one afternoon with a surprise for me. A boxed set of ABC cookies cutters from Fred and Friends. The ABC stands for already been chewed because each of the three gingerbread man cutters has either an arm, leg, or head missing from it. I can’t wait to see how the kids interpret this set of cutters into Christmas designs. Maybe they can put a headless gingerbread man on the reindeer and we will have the Halloween headless horseman. Who knows!

To make all this even more special, I arrived home from a day long Harley ride several weeks ago to find that Ryan had brought me a two-gallon glass canning jar, thinking I might like it. I was thrilled because I had been wondering about what I could use to display the oldest cookie cutters, including my mother’s which she had given me years ago; and all the special cutters which deserved to been seen and not hidden away in a box and pulled out once a year at Christmas.

Last year another one of my “adopted into the family” kids called and asked if I would share my recipe so he could bake cookies for his nieces and nephews. How could I refuse knowing another family is starting a wonderful tradition?

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