Friday, December 18, 2009

The great cookie-baking adventure

It was a chill Monday night, a week and a half before Christmas. All the children were snug in their beds, except mine. (Actually, it wasn't that late.) We had returned from an evening outing of Austin's, which I spent in the car reading while waiting for him.

It was about 8:30, and I was determined to attempt something that had been a beloved ritual of my Mom's ... baking sugar cookies. This night was the night, as every other night was stacking up to be at least as busy. Plus, I naively thought that we would make enough cookies to be able to treat every one of the kids' teachers, plus have oodles left. Plus, I felt the magic of the moment, a moment that would be lost forever if I didn't grab it now.

I had prepared the dough the evening before ("refrigerate at least three hours"), and I had heard of other potential sugar-cookie cooks storing their dough for much longer than that. Weeks, even. I was ahead of them already. I felt so prepared! I started gathering the supplies ... the cookie sheets, the cutting board, the flour, the rolling pin.

Hmmmm ... when was the last time I had used the rolling pin? I couldn't recall. It had definitely been more than a few months; more than a few years, even? I felt strongly that I owned a rolling pin. I seemed to remember seeing one somewhere in the depths of the cabinets, at some time in the past. I had faith that one would surface. A rolling pin, and a cookie cutter. (The round glass ends looked too big to cut out cookies.)

So I started the quest. Like other great seekers -- Ulysses, Jason, Monty Python searching for the Holy Grail -- I had complete and utter faith in my mission.That was the only possible explanation for why I had not bought a rolling pin and cookie cutters when I was buying the cookie ingredients. I knew that Mom was cheering me on, too, from somewhere.

So I started digging in the depths of the kitchen cupboards, pulling out the ancient relics from dusty corners of Christmases long ago. I discovered that we owned an unused sifter. I found a small collection of bundt pans, not that I ever cook in one. Had they been reproducing down there? There were other oddities that I might require in the future, and some odd contraption that might have been a chopper/dicer. But a rolling pin? For such a seemingly large item, it was hiding itself well.

In desperation, I asked Dwaine. I asked the kids. I was met with quizzical stares. I'm not sure if Andrew even knew what a rolling pin was. Poor child ... he'd been deprived much too long of a foodie mom.

But finally, after about 30 minutes of exhaustive and exhausting searching, my persistence paid off. I discovered a rolling pin! A light shone around it like a halo, the light of the large flashlight I was using to plumb the depths. As I pulled it out, the angels sang of the glory (on the CD). It was deep in the rear of a long, narrow cabinet. One of the kids had drawn on it with permanent marker. Other than that, it looked unused.

So now, undaunted, I mustered all my remaining strength to make cookies. And I did! They came out exactly the way Mom's always did. I was so proud! Some were skinny, some fat; some light, some dark; a few had corners missing. Sort of like all of God's children. They all had the general shape of a crescent moon, the one and only cookie cutter I was able to find. No, I'm not Russian. Why a crescent moon has anything to do with Christmas still eludes me ... is it supposed to be the backdrop for Santa's sleigh and reindeer? An oblique reference, to be sure.

My kids had fun making the frosting in creative colors and adding sprinkles. I discovered why the dough should be kept cool; if not, it oozed to gargantuan proportions, the crescent moon becoming grotesque as the warming dough spread out. This came of re-using hot cookie sheets. Again, I was so proud! I was making cookies just like my mom had. I had inherited her cooking skills. She, like me, had as many disasters in the kitchen as successes.

The end results were clearly homemade, just as homemade sugar cookies should look. The cookies were a hit with everyone. I think that for every one produced, another was eaten, because the volume was considerably less than the dozens and dozens I had anticipated.

I remember one year that someone brought to a cookie exchange perfectly identical reindeer sugar cookies that were "homemade," of uniform color, with tiny little antlers coming to perfect points, marked with teensie little silver balls on the end. This person had somehow, mysteriously and magically, solved the problem of the dough sticking to everything: the pin, the cutting board, the cookie cutter, my hand. But her cookies just didn't have that creative flair. They looked storebought. Sneer. And I bet my cookies, lovingly smeared in frosting by my kids, taste better.

In keeping with mom's tradition, the remainder of the cookies are in a large Ziploc baggie in the freezer, where everyone but me has forgotten about them. This is not a good situation.

Sorry, no pictures. Great artists do not deign to have pictures taken -- it would interrupt the flow of psychic energy while they and their children are creating. (That, and I forgot.)


  1. Great story, Julie. BTW, in pinch, a wine bottle (full or empty) makes a great rolling pin :) Glad you had fun with the baking. I have not done any yeat this year, but Matthew requested some so he would have something to leave out for Santa :)

  2. This wonderful, Julie. I loved reading it. You have a way of describing things so one "see" what is going on! Yes, you made Christmas memories!
    Lois Wauson

  3. I miss your could publish this.


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