Monday, December 17, 2007

Dinners and desserts

This weekend was a blur of cooking and general puttering around in the kitchen. From beef stew and Italian wedding soup to lemon bars and whiskey balls, I kept the home fires (or oven, or stovetop) burning and the air redolent with the rich fragrance of shortbreads, fruit and wine. The two feet of snow that fell all day gave me all the more impetus to stay indoors and make delicious food happen.

Tonight I'll be whipping up a batch of butternut balls and sour cream cutout cookies.

Those who know me tend to be surprised that I crack open the oven door: I am not "the baker of the family," that would be my sister. But it's holiday time, and for me that's the one time a year I get out my recipe collection and start thinking about Christmas cookies.

I make the same cookies every year at holiday time, goodies that have meant "home" and "happiness" for thirty years. I don't need new recipes because they don't hold any memories for me.

I don't have any children with whom to share the tradition of chilling the sour cream cookie dough in the fridge overnight (and having to make another batch because little fingers were at the dough in the wee hours) or carefully handling the dough itself so that it behaves as it ought when it's rolled out and cut into Santas, trees, stars and bells. I don't have any children with whom to make new traditions. So it's just me and my own childhood in the kitchen as I roll the warm butternut balls in 10x sugar or make a quick batch of icing for the cutouts.

I remember my sister making doughnuts, cookies and countless other goodies with me when I was little. Usually my main role was holding the hand mixer's electrical cord to avoid the short in the wires (that lasted until my brother overheard "a little to the left ... now to the right a bit" one too many times and bought us a new mixer) or stirring a bowl of goodness (and getting to lick the spoon!). I have happy memories that I gently fold into each cookie that I will carry with me forever.

What memories do you have of holiday cookie-making time?