’Tis the Season for Eating, But Is There a Best Christmas Cookie?
I’m ready for Christmas!
Oh, not that gift-giving shopping part; I gave that up a long time ago. I refuse to go Christmas shopping in July, which seems to be the norm now. I don’t do the “day after Christmas, let’s save 90 percent” shopping escapade. The twins are 25 now and that long Christmas list made up from the Toys R Us catalog is no longer accepted here. No more waiting in line with people who have no concept of space for the latest Furby, Cabbage Patch Kid or Game Boy. Or waiting in line for the “limited offer” Xbox consoles at 3 a.m. or putting bikes together at 4 in the morning. Why do we do these things, parents? My lovely wife and I exchange “practical” gifts nowadays. This year I’m getting four pairs of Thorlo socks!
And we’re decorating only the part of the house I can reach without a ladder, as a nod to the metal and plastic knees. We finally found window candles that use a battery. They even program themselves to turn on and off, only “burning” for eight hours. How do they know when to do that?
No, I made sure this year that I was prepared early for Christmas, not like last year. Last year, what with all the confusion from Sandy, I made my Dr. Harry appointment after Christmas. When I stepped on the scales at the office they were using in Manahawkin, alarms went off – “Warning! Scale danger identified!” This year I made my appointment way before Christmas. I made sure for a week before my appointment that I had only oatmeal for breakfast, no lunch and a small supper (no macaroni!). There was no worrying about the old weight on the scale. Now I’m ready for Christmas and ... cookies!
I’ve finished my 64th year here on Earth and I still have not solved the great mystery associated with the Christmas holiday: What’s the best Christmas cookie?
Personally, the challenge of choosing the greatest of all Christmas cookies gets tougher every year. I have never met a cookie I didn’t like. Or pretty much any food, for that matter. We DiSipios live by the philosophy that anything that life deals you can be solved by eating. Are you feeling sad? Eat. Feeling happy? Eat. Getting married? Eat. Boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you? Eat. In debt? Eat. Hit the lottery? Eat. Food is the universal cure for any emotional or physical trauma, according to DiSipio tradition. Food to us when we are in upheaval is like penicillin for you when you have an infection; it remedies what ails us.
I remember cookies as one of my fondest memories. My mom used to make a brown edge wafer that was infinitely better than Nabisco ever made. She used a “special glass” to get the edge “just right” so that it browned to perfection while the rest of the cookie baked normally. We have not been able to make this cookie in our family since my mom passed away and didn’t tell us which “perfect glass” to use. Believe me, we tried.
We spent time at Aunt Angie’s house after my mother died, and she was the master of the “cookie from nothing,” which was about what we had back then. Biscotti was a staple at her house before it became the cookie of choice of the Starbucks generation and became as expensive for one biscotti as it had been for Aunt Angie to make enough for a week. A little flour, a little anise and we had coffee cookies for a month. She also would mass produce a cookie we came to know as a “dinky-dunker,” a hard-topped cookie with a soft inside that would soak up so much coffee that you could slurp it out of the cookie without dripping any on the table.
My wife is an outstanding cook, but she outdoes herself when it comes to baking, and cookies are her specialty. She starts baking right after Thanksgiving. The baking product people must love that time of the year: flour, yeast, sugars, nuts, Nestles morsels – all go flying off the shelves. They must do 90 percent of their business during the holiday season. Sort of like the fireworks people near Fourth of July. I know we were able to make our $400 ShopRite free Thanksgiving turkey by buying supplies to make our Christmas cookies this year.
My wife has cut down a little lately as a nod to my dietary limitations. “Just because I make them doesn’t mean you have to eat them.” Ha! She knows my weakness when it comes to cookies. She has about five different variations of a killer chocolate chip cookie that usually doesn’t survive a week: plain, with walnuts, chocolate chip bars with and without walnuts and, as a special treat for my cholesterol, chocolate chip bars with walnuts covered with a milk chocolate top layer. Don’t tell Dr. Harry, please.
Then we have the thumbprint cookie filled with jelly. This one won first place in my heart this year. It is a shortbread cookie that the lovely one explains to me has “lots of butter” in it. Hear that, arteries? It is especially tasty right after Lucy and Jake’s 5 a.m. walk. We get back in the house, the coffee has finished perking and they get their treat for the walk and I get mine, two thumbprint cookies. I read the paper, finish my first cup of coffee, get a refill and, of course, two more cookies. Sometimes, it is the thumbprint. Other times the peanut butter blossoms speak to me. You know them, peanut butter cookies with that inviting Hersey Kiss in the center. There are various ways of eating them, but my technique is to pop the entire cookie in my mouth and save the Hershey’s kiss for the last melt-in-your-mouth treat.
During the day, when the need for a pick-me-up leads me to the kitchen, I face the daunting task of deciding which cookie meets the needs of that particular time of day: pecan sandies, jelly crumb bars or the almond crescent, a lovely, beguiling, powdered cookie that has crushed almond bits and powdered sugar with a mouthwatering hint of almond extract? Sometimes my choice is made in a rational way to even out the number of cookies left in each bag. Often there is no rhyme or reason to the choice; it is pure cookie lust.
But try as I might, I can never decide which one is “the best.” It appears to me that the one I am eating at that time is the best until I try another variety and then it is the best. I am rarely as indecisive about things as I am about my favorite cookie of the season. One thing I am sure of: There is much more research to be done on the topic, and I will volunteer myself for this task for many more Christmases to come.
Anthony DiSipio of Beach Haven Park is the author of When I’m 64, a book of baby boomer humor available at whenim64ajjr.com or by emailing email@example.com.