Christmas Makes the House Smell So Good
Of all the pre-Christmas festivities—trimming the tree, wrapping packages, visiting Santa—my favorite Yuletide treat as a kid was decorating the cookies. After rolling out the dough and cutting it into leaping reindeer, Santas, angels, snowmen and stars, I’d smear each with a colored icing.
As I recall, making spritz cookies was a bit of a challenge for little hands. The dough, tinted to soft pinks and greens, had to be squirted through a metal press onto a baking sheet. Then I’d top the snowflake designs with sprinkles and nuts. Much like my granddaughters did this weekend.
Bake Your Own Traditions
In the 1940s and 50s, my mother baked a number of favorites: Buttery, nutty Russian Tea Cakes—sometimes called Snowballs. Pecan Tassies, that had a crust like a mini, pecan pie. Fruitcake cookies. Peanut Butter Blossoms with a Hershey’s chocolate kiss planted on top. The ubiquitous Chocolate Chip cookies and Snickerdoodles rolled in cinnamon-sugar. Cherry Coconut Bars and Bourbon Balls favored by the adults. Many of these old recipes are featured in Betty Crocker’s Cookie Book and still available in re-print on Amazon.
At a certain point in the holidays, my mother thumbed through her 3×5″ recipe cards, many of them showing gentle smudging from Christmases past. I watched and listened as Mama and her friends swapped holiday recipes, often penciling extra advice along the side of a card until it was overwritten with cooking tips.
Mama stored dozens upon dozens of cookies in colorful tins and shared them with family, neighbors, her shop customers. and even total strangers. Anyone darkening the door during the holidays—the preacher, mailman, salesmen, repairmen, panhandlers—all were offered Christmas cookies.
So it was deja vu for me, when Tom called saying Lisa and the three girls were baking cookies this weekend and would like for me to join. My eyes lit up! It was a step back in time. . . .