Ginger Snap? Oh, She’ll Ginger Snap, All Right
For some reason, Steve always pictured a good-natured woman in a big apron at the kitchen island, arms flapping, doughy wings, rolling pin clunking gently against malleable surfaces of deliciousness, oven humming softly, the Christmas tunes playing. We’re talking about a guy whose stories hinge on food-related experiences, and that’s OK -- except that up until today, all he gets is a grumbling lass who is good at making Scottish soda biscuits in a pinch.
I’m not making excuses, but I suspect that part of my embedded ambivalence toward cookie cutters and icing stems from a certain social dissing when it came to staying home to bake anything, which gave me plenty of reason to skip out on things like cookie swaps in the first place. My reluctance to hang around the kitchen too long is not such a stretch when I consider that right inside my grandmother’s “Better Homes and Garden Cookbook,” circa 1930, is a not-so subtle poke in the modern girl’s ribs that Adam was born hungry and he should not be the one expected to spend ample time in the kitchen; rather Eve should be the chosen one to serve serious time there by hook or by “cookery,” the kind of cooked reverse psychology that every capital-F feminist dreams about.
The domestic damage had been doled out, and so it shaped me, and I came away thinking icing a cookie was really not going to be in my repertoire.
Imagine my consternation when I got an invitation to a Cookie Swap recently and, to my own surprise, considered saying I would attend. I’ve never been to one. Don’t pity me, please. At the same time, I don’t know what came over me. Why say yes to something I knew would be an undertaking for one without such heuristics already in place?
On the other hand, we’re talking cookies. C’mon. I love to eat them. It shouldn’t be that difficult. My competitive nature had shone its appetite.
Cut to next scene. Or scenes. I was Googling, scratching my head over so much information -- tutorials, videos, blogs, vlogs, institutes, even academics. Yikes! I began listing what I would need to make this happen, and the list grew. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Soon I was scouring Hannaford’s shelves for icing bags and food coloring. I was loading my cart with unsalted butter and bags of confectioners’ sugar. I threw in a jar of allspice. Then it was over to the Christmas Tree Shop for two sets of decorating tip (was this enough?), paper doilies, silvery disposable trays and airtight containers.
I had fun making the Christmas cookies in my head, a myriad of stars, bells, and reindeer, followed by wreaths, hearts and balls. It was cool to fantasize about creating all those brightly piped, edible cutouts depicting good cheer and merrymaking. All those satisfied eyes and mouths. Yum ...
Visualizing the cookies was one thing I could render instantly, but it turns out it took an afternoon to run around and gather everything, a morning to bake, and another afternoon to decorate, a night to let the cookies thoroughly dry before stacking them between parchment paper as if they were historic relics, and into those airtight containers I bought that would inevitably spend hours soaking just to remove the unsightly UPC code stickers. Meanwhile, there’s still gingerbread dough wrapped in cellophane waiting to be rolled out while naked cookies cool on wire racks and others await the dressing of finishing icing touches.
What did I sign up for exactly?
Three dozen cookies of my choosing to share over Christmas. The thing is, three dozen may not seem like a lot (it is!), especially considering I’ve already consumed four cookies along the way for taste-testing. And what post-menopausal elfin trickster decided consuming lots of sugar at this stage in life was such a good idea? Just thinking about sweets makes me feel like a cookie on a hot sheet myself.
But here I am, putting my back into it at the kitchen island, moving from oven to counter, singing even.
My invite was pretty straight forward: The event would open at 3 p.m., and wind down at 5. I should make three dozen cookies. I could bring three dozen home. There would be refreshment. And I should RSVP.
Still, I was curious. After all, the cookie-swap culture was new to me. I’ve learned from various cookie-swap connoisseurs that the standby favorites, like chocolate chip (though not barred anywhere on my invite), are a big no-no, and the same goes for your standard oatmeal offering. I’m glad I checked -- a moment of panic had me making a backup plan including the easy prepackaged deals you snip open and slice from one of those big brands. Don’t judge, but in a moment of desperation, I considered doing this, until I became more learned of the ways of sweet swaps.
Let me reiterate, those aforementioned faux confections are not real cookies, not really. Real cookies are made with love, sweat and tears mixed in ... well, maybe that isn’t the best image, but figuratively speaking, it’s true.
Nonetheless, the commitment to the real deal is no doubt one of the reasons my finger hovered hesitatingly for a good 30 seconds before emailing my earnestly sweet and super-organized neighbor, who most probably already has her cookies made, decorated and bundled, to actually count me in. Count me in, I said. I was going out on a cookie limb and I knew it.
That was the point of no return. I was in. I could not let my friends down, and in the process, they would learn I had no idea what I was doing. They know now, which kind of makes it even sweeter.
And wait, the swap’s this weekend?! Of course, it is.
The researcher in me quickly became consumed by the websites filled with tips on icing and the difference between meringue powder and cream of tartar. Doesn’t anyone at Hannaford’s know? Google. A trip to The Christmas Tree Shop for bags and tips for icing, a large Rubbermaid container to take home a variety of swapped cookies, a tray to present my newfound comestible efforts, and ink for the printer to share the recipe. A sign that simply said, “Bon’s Gingerbread Cookies” (the recipe for which can be easily found here: www.kingarthurflour.com/ recipes/gingerbread-cookies-recipe).
Looking on the web -- that’s the easy part. Executing a plan and pulling it off -- well, that is a bit more time-consuming, to say the least.
As I said, baking cookies is hard and, quite honestly and more importantly, noble work. Who knows, perhaps this Christmas, Steve will get his dough-rolling woman after all, and I will get a knighting for it.
Here’s to cookery, cookies and a Merry Christmas! Snip snap!
Bonnie J. Toomey teaches at Plymouth State University and writes about writing, learning, and life in the 21st century. You can follow Parent Forward on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bonniejtoomey . Learn more at www.parentforward.blogspot.com or visit bonniejtoomey.com .