Christmas Cookie Head Trip

An old post from last year, just for fun:

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I’m not at all ashamed of my forbears’ predilection for lime Jell-O mix and cornflakes. If you’re a Christmas celebrator and temperamentally at all like me (ie possessing a jejeune degree of judgment about trivial things), you probably think your Christmas cookies are superior to everyone else’s too.  I know, I know: “But they really are better,” you’re going to insist. I really hate to be the one to break this to you but, deep breath… you’re wrong.

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maraschino cherry ‘bon bons’ from the Betty Crocker bible

You see, my mother baked from the 1960 Betty Crocker cookbook when we were kids, and she also made cookies from Old Timey recipes her mother and older sisters gave her. But, wait, you’re saying: “Me too!  That’s what our family did.” I’m so sorry but…bonus points still for me. And don’t try the old, “My Mexican/Italian/Finnish grandmother was a great baker” line with me. My grandparents were German and Midwestern, and their cookies were positively lousy with maraschino cherries and artificial flavorings.

My last name was Zuckerman, for crying out loud. Sugar-man, get it? (And, no, we’re not going into the, “Uh, you appear to have a Jewish last name” angle in my post about Christmas cookies.) The truth is: mine are better than yours.

At least I believe mine are better than yours, and that’s the whole point about Christmas nostalgia, right? I can’t allow yours to be as good as mine. I honestly don’t know if my cookies would taste as fantastic if I didn’t have the comparison of all those other grandmothers’ cookies to sniff my nose at. I mean, yes, I’m pretty sure mine would still taste as delicious. But I can’t be absolutely certain because, year after year, I sample other people’s Christmas cookies – the snicker doodles and thumb prints and molasses crinkles and linzer cookies … and how could we omit that awesomely flavorless and nondescript not-my-mother’s-Christmas “Spritz” cookie – and I know in my heart that my peppermint flavored candy canes and garishly butter cream-frosted sugar cookie Santas and glossy green cornflake wreaths and Russian tea cakes (which my Greek husband had the AUDACITY to claim are not Northern European Christmas cookies at all and were probably prepared by Aeschylus’s mother for an opening night bake sale or something)…I just know in my heart that my mother’s Christmas cookies are still the world’s best, and always shall be.

My mother was a terrible baker and we didn't even have Christmas when I was little.

My mother was a terrible baker and we didn’t even have Christmas when I was little.

And when my three children have their own children, I hope they will enter the Christmas season with the same smug comfort that has buoyed me all these years, knowing that their mother’s misshapen snowflake cookies and meringue blobs swirled out of a cut-off Ziploc bag are very near perfection.

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About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director and Harvard College house master/some-time journalist. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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5 Responses to Christmas Cookie Head Trip

  1. adauphin04 says:

    COOKIE!!!! (Raves the Cookie Monster inside me.) No one makes better cookies than me!!! LOL!

  2. Richard Hussar says:

    Katrina’s cookies would be tough competition to beat

  3. I love this. My mother had the circa 1963 Betty Crocker Cooky Book, and every year my sisters and I would go page by page through it, looking at the photos to decide what to bake for Christmas. It was almost always the same, spritz, frosted sugar cookies, Russian tea cakes – with an occasional Pfeffernusse thrown in. Almost 40 years later, my sister gave me a copy of this same book, with its oddly tinted photos, as a gift. One thing I learned from my Minnesota-born mother: always butter, never margarine!

  4. Cook books are such a great window into women’s lives at various points in history. My mom had a cookbook (maybe it was the Betty Crocker one; I’m not sure) that had tips for new brides, including suggestions like, “take a brief nap on the kitchen floor in the middle of your chores” and the helpful advice to “notice interesting things to share with your husband at dinner,” accompanied by a photo of a woman looking up at a cat in a tree with a moronic look on her face. We used to laugh and laugh at that. But those cook books are fantastic! I forgot about Pferffernusse. (Am I hallucinating or did some people use powdered jello as a flavoring/color for spritz cookies?)
    Thanks for sharing.

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