I really want to go home for Christmas. I haven’t been for several years and I miss the loud, happiness of my family at the Holidays. I’ll try to spread the joy here, in my home, just a little, by baking my Mom’s famous Christmas cookies. The flavor is filled with memory, just one taste takes me back in time and it inspired this little PE I wrote recently.
Every year, Mom would bend down to reach to the back of the pantry’s bottom shelf. Behind The Joy of Cooking and her worn copy of The Betty Crocker Cookbook was where she kept a Farmers Wife Magazine, December 1963 issue wrapped in a gallon sized zip-lock bag. For it’s entire life, it had been open to page 63, Magical Christmas Cookie Recipe. My sister and I would marvel at the perfect little girl in the pictures, caught forever with her brown hair in pigtails, her mothers oversized red-heart checkered apron wrapped around her.
As the oven started to warm our little kitchen, Mom would let me pull the chilly silver mixing bowls from the cupboards that seemed unprotected from the winter air outside. I was only allowed to measure dry ingredients into my mom’s famous cookies, at least until I could reach the mixing bowl on the table without standing on a chair. My sister, Janet, was a little more graceful so she got to gather all the elements for our annual ritual. I remember Alvin and the Chipmunks singing about Christmas in the background and the sharp smell of processed alcohol and warm spice when we would uncap the vanilla extract bottle. After the butter, sugar, eggs and love had been blended, Dad was in charge of pushing the cookie cutter into the dough rolled out onto the brown formica top of our kitchen table, which had turned white with sifted flour. He always gently guided my sister and I on the placement of our chosen characters. If I wanted to put the star too close to the angel’s wing, there would have been a huge dough leftover, and disaster. I remember the nutmeg taste of that dough as I snuck raw cookie scraps from the table and then the acid taste on my tongue, long into the night, of too much sugar in such a small belly.
I remember Janet was always more artistic with her sugar and chocolate sprinkle placement. She had a careful plan for images she was creating. Her cookies always came out perfect. Like edible little stained glass mirrors. I had a less patient, more Pollock approach of making Santa, covering him in chocolate sprinkles with a green sugar beard. I believed that reindeer should look like a rainbow. Most often, the sugar I piled high on my cookies would turn a deep caramelized brown, burnt and crunchy at the edges. They would live in the bottom of the cookie bucket until well after New Years. My creations would never find their way to any family gatherings. Blackened stars would wait to be dipped in my mother’s morning Sanka, so that the sharp coffee taste would disguise the burnt edges.
Now-a-days, I don’t eat sugar and now I’m off of aspartame and all artifical sweetners, cause they all make me CUHrazee.