Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

There is a tray full of gingerbread cookies baking in the oven as I type this. The house is filled with their delicious smell, and it reminds me being a kid and watching my grandmother gear up for the approaching holidays. (Had to stop right there and take those cookies out to cool)

You see, my Nana used to make at least 40 dozen cookies every Christmas. Sometimes it was 50 or 60 dozen. She made chocolate chip (with and without nuts), oatmeal, sugar, ginger, peanut butter, peanut butter with chocolate kisses in the middle, date bars, and probably some more kinds that I'm forgetting. She would let us kids decorate the sugar cookies with that crystallized colored sugar before she baked them. As she finished each batch she would store them in old butter cookie metal tins, each labeled with the kind of cookie that could be found inside.

Why on earth did she make so many cookies? We didn't have a big family so we certainly didn't eat them all ourselves. Nana baked so she could give them away. Anyone who happened to drop by got to take home a bag full of cookies to take home. And people did drop by. Lots of them. I don't know if they usually did but they sure came by at Christmas time. She also took them to work to give away and probably sent them with my grandfather to his work. Nana would usually run out of more than one kind of cookie before Christmas, and since that just wouldn't do she would whip up another 2 or 3 dozen of them. Just so nobody would open a tin any time before New Years and find it empty.

I will freely admit that Craig is a much better cook than I am. He worked at various restaurants during high school and college and just has that knack for throwing a meal together that is fantastic with little or no prior planning. Me, on the other hand, have to get a recipe, make a list, go to the store, and cook. He's faster and better at it, so he usually cooks.

But he doesn't bake. He says it because you have to measure everything perfectly and he finds that to be too much of a bother. In contrast, I LOVE to bake. Cookies, cakes, pies, whatever. My ability to successfully pull off my Nana's fantastic apple pie is possibly one of the reasons why Craig married me. Maybe it's the scientist in me that makes me enjoy baking. Science can't be off the cuff and thrown together and work out like a good meal can. Everything must be measured, timed, and watched carefully.

Or maybe it's a bit of my Nana in me. At least I hope so. She was an amazing woman, and I really do miss her. I'm not the only one.

But tonight I did something I have never ever done, and that Nana certainly never did.

Earlier today the girls were watching Madeline and in one scene the girls in the movie baked gingerbread cookies. Lily said "I want to make gingerbread mens!". I said we could, and started thinking of which one of my cookbooks would have a good recipe. Craig heard her too, and when he went to the store he bought gingerbread cookie mix. In a BOX. And I'm ashamed to write this, but because it was fast and convenient, I used it.

It's heresy, I tell you. Nana never used boxed anything for her cookies, so I never did either. You got cookie dough from flour, sugar, eggs, milk, water, etc, not from a box. She would occasionally use boxed cake mix, but she made a mean devils food cake from scratch (no tub of icing there either). Which, come to think of it, I don't think I have the recipe for. I'll have to call my mom can get it.

So yeah, I used the boxed cookie mix, and they turned out okay. Craig and the girls like them, so I guess it's okay. As she was halfway through her first cookie, Lily even said "Not bad mama. Not bad."

I agree. They're not bad. But Nana's were great.


Anonymous said...

We always make a ton of cookies for Christmas too. My sister and step mom get a little cookie nuts. It's all good though because we all have different favourites. I loff loff loff the peanut butter ones with the Hershey kiss rammed in the tops. Yummy. We also do 7 layer cookies, "Ohio" cookies, which is a recipe from Sharron's mom- a kinda sugar cookie with a mapley glaze type top. There are also chocolate chip and almond type ones (the balls that are rolled in powdered sugar). Between the cookies and the leftovers we're set.

However, I refuse to even acknowledge the existence of Christmas or any other December holiday till AFTER Thanksgiving. Right now it's all about the turkey!

Next thing you know Lilly will be asking for Gingerbread houses. You better hunt down a good recipe! :)

-Z said...

I would love to bake cookies at Christmas, but I would eat them.

We'd have to have a plan to give them away QUICK!

Oh, why not? Maybe you've just inspired me. And boxes are okay. We're all busy and the boxes are better than they used to be.

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