Monday, March 8, 2010
I guess most of my food memories revolve around holidays and family gatherings…Christmas dinners, Thanksgiving feasts, Fourth of July parties at the lake with my cousins in South Dakota, the first Easter ham dinner I made for all my friends at college. But I’d have to say my fondest memories of my youth are of our whole family, sitting around our kitchen table a week or so before Christmas, decorating cut out cookies. With colored icing, sugars and non-perils we used small paintbrushes and toothpicks to “paint” and decorate the cookies. It would take hours. My German father excelled at very detailed decorations and every year the three of us kids would try to match his style. He too had fond memories of decorating Christmas cookies as a child growing up on a small farm in North Dakota, where having cookies was sometimes their only Christmas presents. The recipe my mother used for these cookies was a butter cookie recipe she was given by a college friend who had received it from her grandmother. They were thin and very fragile, very difficult to role out and cut and bake without burning (the only time I heard my mother curse was when she made these cookies). However they are extremely yummy cookies so part of the fun in decorating was to “accidentally” break a cookie so “it just had to be eaten right away.” The resulting collection of decorated cookies was a work of art in our opinions and I remember crying one year when my mother served the cookies to guests without consulting us. I wanted to save my special cookies for myself! I’ve continued the tradition with our family and now I’m the one who curses every year making dozens of “Grandma’s Butter Crisps” and my girls create amazing works of art. I’ve included my neighbor’s and friends’ children so that it’s become the annual “Vicki’s Cookie Party” holiday event…And every single year, as I sit down and decorate a handful of cookies, I remember the happiness and love I felt as our family decorated together and the pure, innocent joy my father passed on to all of us through this tradition.