Christmas traditions, baked up freshIf you don’t happen to like fruitcake, there are many other edible options available to you during the holidays. There’s lutefisk ... oh, wait, I said edible options, didn’t I? OK, how about cookies?!
By: Brian Matuszak, for the Budgeteer
So we’re tummy-deep into the Christmas season and, by now, you’ve probably eaten your weight in fruitcake (which, for the average 175-pound human, translates into a half-slice). But if you don’t happen to like fruitcake, there are many other edible options available to you during the holidays. There’s lutefisk ... oh, wait, I said edible options, didn’t I? OK, how about cookies?!
Christmas cookies are a strong, and delicious, holiday tradition around our house. When I was a kid, my Grandma Cille (pronounced SEAL, like the animal with a ball on its nose, and short for LUCILLE, like the person with a Ball on her stationery) would bake up a thousand different kinds of Christmas cookies for all the grandkids. You think I exaggerate when I say a thousand, but just like a Duluth School Board budget estimate, it’s fair-r-r-r-rly close to being a real number. Christmas was the one time of year that Grandma Cille baked, and I never understood why she didn’t do more of it. These cookies were the best! Giant reindeer and Santa Claus sugar cookies with crisp extremities that, once dunked in ice-cold milk, melted in your mouth with mushy goodness. (As I grew older, a hot cup of coffee became the dunking liquid of choice, but the mushy, sugary goodness remained.) There were piles of tiny, psychedelic Spritz cookies that looked like they slipped off a Pink Floyd album cover, and were the perfect size for my patented 10-cookies-jammed-in-the-mouth devouring method. Iced gingerbread men, spicy cinnamon raisin, delectable chocolate chip, and dozens of other scrumptious, homemade cookies were all crammed into an ice cream bucket that barely snapped shut and hand-delivered to each of the grandkids. I looked forward to the arrival of that plastic container every year, because it meant Christmas had arrived for me.
My wife, Sue, has the same tradition with Christmas cookies, only her family actually created them together. Cookie Baking Day was held every December, where an entire day was set aside to make everyone’s favorite cookies. The kitchen would be filled with stifling heat from the oven, and aromas too overpowering with goodness to adequately describe. Sue’s dad took on oven duty, watching closely to make sure no burning occurred (nothing worse than a singed Santa on Christmas), while the rest of her family rolled the dough that had been prepared by Sue’s mom the night before, cut out a myriad of shapes like holly, wreaths, and tiny Christmas bulbs, and decorated all of them in a rainbow of multi-colored sugar and sprinkles. It was a very special time for Sue because it meant Christmas had arrived for her.
But Time, just like a plodding, determined Energizer Bunny, relentlessly marches on. Family members come and go, requiring us to add new pages of Cookie Remembrances to our holiday memory books. I haven’t enjoyed my ice cream bucket of yumminess from Grandma Cille for a few years now, and Sue has had to start up her own Cookie Baking Day for our family. However, she’s expanded it to Cookie Baking Week in order to get everything else done (cards, concerts, gifts, and, oh yeah, those pesky little things called “jobs”) and it does add a certain level of stress to an already stressful time of year. But I’m grateful that she does it. Even though we all crave the mouthwatering Spritz and sugar cookies that are created, our daughter, Kaylee, is going to cherish this special time spent with her mom – making and decorating cookies from scratch – much longer, and stronger, than the treats we’ll enjoy for a week or two. In fact, every year when Sue hauls out the rolling pin and the baking sheet, it will mean Christmas has arrived for Kaylee, and that’s pretty cool.
Oh, and by the way, don’t think I don’t contribute. Someone has to unwrap the Hershey’s Kisses and keep the cats out of the dough.
Brian Matuszak has been difficult and demanding since February 2008. He is the co-founder of Renegade Comedy Theatre, founder of Rubber Chicken Theater, and could really go for ten of Grandma Cille’s Spritz cookies right about now, but will settle for Sue’s Peanut Butter Blossoms.