I’ve been making them for five decades. I began when I was ten. And I’ve probably eaten more than my own weight in raw dough. Ever since my mother let me loose in the kitchen.
It’s what she did when I was young. It’s what I did as a tween, then teen. What I did when my children were young. What I still do now.
My repertoire has expanded over the years to include peanut butter blossoms (chocolate kiss cookies), anise pizzelles and nut puffs (a harkening back to my children’s Italian heritage), buckeyes, haystacks, cocoa cookies with peanut butter chips, and just added last year, a gingerbread cookie with peanut butter and butterscotch chips (a personal invention).
Primarily, though, there is the chocolate chip cookie. It is the one where I began. It is my mainstay recipe.
In the hard days of single-motherhood, I clung to tradition. I refused to settle for less than real vanilla extract.
I tweaked the recipe over the years. Switching from half margarine and half butter to all butter. From half granulated, half brown sugar to all dark brown sugar. The recipe is now my own.
As baseball was for Terence Mann in Field of Dreams, so the cookie has been a constant throughout my life. Cookie baking is thread in the quilt of my years. It connects seasons of anticipation, yearning, trial, fulfillment, and joy.
When I was a novice baker, my older brother was in the navy, out to sea in the Mediterranean. I sent him some cinnamon coated cut-out cookies. He told me that, if I ever shipped that recipe again, be sure to include a spoon.
One year, I baked and baked and baked. And my other brother and his crowd of friends ate and ate and ate. My mother frowned at noon on Christmas Day as someone ate the last cookie.
Then I was a young wife experimenting with cookies. Some fell off the list; others remained.
One year I had a new baby, my third. I learned that baking early and storing everything in the same container just makes all the cookies taste the same–none of which was good.
As a single mother, there was a year I hardly baked at all because money was so tight and time too pinched. A family unfriendly job provided little money and ate my time.
Then there are years when Christmas cookies are on our table and in the mail to a son overseas. None are of the cinnamon crumbly type.
My mind can still return to the kitchen of my youth. Mother’s old cabinets that went from floor to ceiling. An old porcelain sink with its own drain board in the pantry. My Easy Bake Oven–miniature pies and cakes. The cinnamon cookies in a box of hope to please the recipient.
Mental snapshots of subsequent toddlers milling around my own tiny kitchen waiting to taste. Years flashing by in technicolor. Handfuls of hope and pleased chocolate-smeared faces.
What were once Tupperware containers in the freezer are now individual cookie trays for each household. A taste of memory from Mom to grace their tables, evoke their memories, and form new ones.
Trays of hope to please the recipients.
Sweet memories and Merry Christmas!