I am a book lover, including an old charmer like this vintage tome I picked up for a few dollars at a used book store a couple of years ago. It is in remarkably good shape, given its publication year of 1949, with very few of the smudges and stains that usually decorate a cook book that has been well loved.
The Christmas Cookie Book was written by Virginia Pasley and illustrated with line drawings by Barbara Corrigan. The text describes in glowing detail the author's family tradition of baking a huge variety of Christmas cookies, often starting right after Thanksgiving and continuing through to Christmas day. The contents feature Cookies that keep, cookies that keep a little while, cookies in fancy shapes, cookies that won't keep, and more.
Our family has a Christmas cookie tradition too, although not nearly as elaborate as the one described in this book. We've done the cookie routine since our sons were little boys, skipping some years when we let life get too busy. The recipe was always the same: a basic sugar cookie from my Good Housekeeping Cook book, which we cut into shapes using the cookie cutters my Mom had used, as well as a few new cutters I had purchased here and there.
The real fun was in the decorating, though. A big bowl of white frosting was divided into four smaller bowls, and colored with red, green and yellow food coloring.
Then the four of us-- my husband and our two sons Evan and Ethan, would spend a couple of hours "painting" the cookies with colored frosting, nibbling and talking until every flat surface in the kitchen was covered with a tray or plate of cookies. Here's a glimpse from a batch we made in recent years:
This just never gets old, even when the boys are now grown. Did you ever see the Simpson's episode where Marge chastises Bart for making the Christmas tree cookies look like "bloody arrow heads"...?
That's our son Evan (now age 22) demonstrating this concept with my husband Jim. I was tempted to leave the "red eye" artifact in the photograph in Evan's eyes, but thought better of it and edited it out. But you get the idea.
Christmas cookies are fun! At any age.
Last weekend I went to my first ever Cookie Swap, hosted by my pal Garrett of Vanilla Garlic. We had a blast, and my own cookie baking will never be the same. Traditions are wonderful, but I am learning that just because something is a tradition, doesn't mean that it has to be exactly the same year after year. Twenty years of sugar cookies and colored frosting is enough! I aim to hunt down several of the recipes I enjoyed from the cookie swap (I'm looking at you, Kate!) and make them part of our tradition here at home. They were SO GOOD!
I made persimmon cookies for the swap, and I was quite relieved that they came out just fine, having narrowly avoided disaster when my recipe failed me the night before. Cooking with fruit pulp can be tricky, and I had to add flour and increase the oven temperature significantly before the cookies came out right. That was a little scary.
The moral of the story is: Bake cookies! And don't be afraid to update your traditions, or start new ones this very day. It's never too late to start.
(Above: Ethan, me, and cookie, 2 years ago)