Cookies as Threads of Memory

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 first 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 and contracted over the years to include peanut butter blossoms (chocolate kiss cookies), anise pizzelles, nut puffs (a harkening back to my children’s Italian heritage), buckeyes, haystacks, cocoa cookies with peanut butter chips, and just added a few years ago, 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.

Another 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 cookie recipes. Some fell off the list; others remained.

The 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 have been years when Christmas cookies were on our table and in the mail to a son overseas. None were 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 happy baking as you anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth!

Edited from December 22, 2016

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

31 Replies to “Cookies as Threads of Memory”

    1. Haha! Love that comment, Stephen–and that idea–cookies with a spoon in heaven–grand and glorious! You are so right that food invites our human bonds. It’s like the cement of fellowship. God bless! Thank you!

  1. Do you want me to send you my address so you can send me some of the goodies? My husband and I started helping his grandmother make candy each holiday. Now, almost 40 years later, we still make it. And like you, they are so many memories tied up in the process.

    1. That’s great, Yvonne. I had one recipe that I stopped making several years ago because it took too much time. But one day a grandchild was visiting so we made them together. The whole family rejoiced. Some through delight in the treat. And others in the delight of the memories. Thanks for commenting! God bless!

  2. Oh I love this post and walking with you through your memories. It really highlights the importance of making those memories with those you love. Thank you.


    All brown sugar chocolate chip cookies? I will be trying this.

    1. I just use a gingerbread mix and follow the cookie recipe then add half a bag of butterscotch chips and half a bag of peanut butter chips. Form them into a sphere and bake. Yum, yum. Thanks and God bless!

  3. Nancy , how interesting that we all have recipes that trigger treasured memories. So often, they are more than just a delicious treat – they are our way back to childhood experiences, the person who baked them or gave you the recipe, or to a memorable meal.

  4. Oh my goodness, now I’m wanting to make Christmas cookies! What a lovely post and a beautiful thread reaching through your life. I’ve had a similar thread…baking since I was a little girl (Easy Bake Oven here too!) to teaching our daughter and learning to tweak recipes from wheat flour to gluten-free rice flour. (Some interesting flops there!) Thank you, Nancy, for bringing a smile to my day and a growling to my tummy…I better start baking! Blessings to you.

  5. What a lovely post and beautiful (and delicious!) memories. I was also an Easy Bake Oven kind of girl. Today I’m the I-try-but-burn-stuff kind of baker. Your cookies look and sound wonderful! Happy baking and God bless!

    1. I’ve burned things too on metal cookie sheets. So now I use Pampered Chef’s stones (no affiliation for money there!). Thanks for reading and commenting, Joey. God bless!

  6. Very cool, Nancy. I have a lot of memories being with my mom in the kitchen. I always preferred baking to working outside with my dad. Although it made for a rough couple first years of marriage as a handyman ?
    Now I try to bake with my kids, and I bake for people at work. My wife and I embarked on a perfect cookie quest for several varieties and the ones we landed on ate Staples for us.

  7. Cookies are definitely a weakness of mine. Especially the chocolate chip ones! I have heard it said that the smell sense is one of the strongest triggers for memory. I think after reading your post, that is confirmed.

  8. “Trays of hope…” Lovely memories. My childhood was absent of traditions, but as other families brought me into theirs – I noticed a pattern involving cookies! Beautiful theme of serving and giving to others. Your family is blessed to have you and your tradition of cookies!

  9. This is so touching! And I can picture you with your childhood Easy Bake Oven (I had one, too). Great piece.

  10. What a sweet tradition and touchstone. I had ambitions to do the same with Kolaches (a family / Czech dessert), but didn’t make it long.

    I did make the take home & bake cookies from the grocery store today though!

    I do think touchstones like this are important in creating family traditions though. Thanks for sharing… wish you could share the actual cookies online 😉

  11. Well, I’m hungry now! What a beautiful story about the continuity of a favorite family food and the ministry of love that creating that food produces among family members. Cookies as ministry and as blessings are superb reasons for baking! A delicious post, Nancy!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.