What is the bakery of choice at Christmas? Fruit Cake, Streudle, Pie? Nah! It's the portable, bite-able, bet-you-can't-eat-just-oneable COOKIE!
Call it what they will around the world---what culture, what country hasn't its very own sweet that can be held in the hand, rolled, pressed, sprinkled, spread, dropped or cut-out?
My earliest remembrance was the inside of the Hough Bakery store, a block down the street.
The smells of all things delicious teased my nose, and the trays of goodies beckoned that nose to press against the glass. The pristine cases held trays of selections for heart-rending decisions: brownies or Chinese Almond? Thumbprint or Shortbread?
As I watched longingly, the box lid closed down over the dozen cookies in a little white box. The clerk handed me a thirteenth one over the counter. Aha! So that was the Baker's Dozen! I have been hooked by cookies ever since.
The Emerging Baker
No sooner had my girls' required Home Economics class ended at East High School than I took over our kitchen and began my apprenticeship as cookie maker. A little bit of flour, a little bit of sugar, this and that and roll or pat, and into the oven. Reading the recipe thoroughly before beginning must have been taught the day I was absent from school, I think.
Learning to check a recipe against contents of the cupboard was another recipe faux pas. Why didn't those peanut butter cookies rise? Oops-forgot the baking powder!
So it was trial, error, success, disaster.Too raw, too brown, burnt! So much depended on the the persnickity oven that was ten degrees hotter than expected, the deft breaking of eggs, the careful measuring and mixing, how shiny or dark the cookie sheets. Somehow through all those early disasters I just knew I was BORN TO BAKE.
After School Cookies
The school bus accelerated past the house, and soon after, our children pushed and banged through the door. Just in time for my cookies from the oven. A batch never lasted into the next day. I was now the Champion Cookie Baker. A cookie and a glass of milk took the edge off a day of arithmetic and reading. And somehow I never tired of seeing their faces light with smiles when they saw "My Favorite!" piled on a plate at the kitchen table.
The Cookie Grandma
The photo album has some shots of a grandson who was intent on helping me bake "cook-cooks", but his 3 year old enthusiasm lasted only into the mixing process, and went quickly downhill during the rolling out. Flour festooned his hiked-up apron and powdered his forehead and hands. "Down!" he cried, desperate to be relieved of his apprenticeship. Ah well, perhaps there should have been granddaughters in the family.
Nevertheless, the hidden cookie in the bottom cupboard shelf was just at the right height for all those grandsons who first toddled and later ran to open that door to find the "surprise." No matter how far the journey, or how many months until they returned, they remembered where the cookie would be waiting. The sameness of the unchanging cookie hiding place was always their reassurance. I had mastered a little behaviour modification.
The Baker's Dozen
But often I wonder whose behaviour has been modified, theirs or mine? It seems I have been conditioned over several years to make cookie-baking my vocation. Why go out the door for errands if you don't have some cookies to take along? Put a paper plate of them in the back seat, wrapped with a clear clingy cover. The gals at the drug store pharmacy sure could use a lift as holiday shoppers come in with coughs and colds and new prescriptions. Here you are, have a cookie break!
So when Christmas comes around, the old wooden spoon goes into overdrive. It is the special season for a portable, bite-able, bet-you-can't-eat-just oneable cookie.
It isn't just about yummy in your tummy, of course. I am not a champion baker and have no culinary training. But I do have a ton of remembered smiles from folks I know and folks I barely know. That's because every day goes better with a cookie.
Christmas is a good time to remember about Joy and Love and Sharing. Cookies can do that all year round. Cookies make more than a tummy happy. They make hearts happy, too.
Well, got to get that last dozen out of the oven. Correction: the baker's dozen from the oven. The thirteenth one's for me. Got to taste the product, dontchaknow?
Merry Christmas! Christ is Born!
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