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Christmas Cookies

12/18/07 5:55PM By Ruth Page
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"Smells like Christmas!" exclaimed one of my family as she came in the door for a visit. "It does not," I said. "I haven't even bought any fresh greens, and even when I get a tree it's got to be out on the porch, not in the apartment."

"Ah," said the family detective. "But it smells nice and yeasty, so I bet you've made cinnamon buns to put in the freezer for Christmas; and on top of that, I smell ginger, which means Maltex cookies, and I know you never make two things on the same day except for a big holiday, when you know you'll be doing a lot more. ERGO," she said triumphantly, "you've started your Christmas baking."

Couldn't surprise the kids when they were little, can't surprise them now that they're grown up.

For so many years, when the children were much younger, we always gave one day to making old-fashioned Christmas cookies, the kind you cut out and decorate with colored sugars, chocolate sprills and dabs of icing. This year I hope that a couple of the grandchildren will get home from college in time to help with those. It's so nice, now they're old enough to realize that deco-rating the counters, rug, floor, and any drawer left open, with all those cookie beautifiers, isn't necessary or helpful.

And grownup kids are quick. It used to take all day to make the cookies, as the children painstakingly selected favorites from among the old cookie cutters - a Santa, a tree, a swan, a reindeer, a church with a pesky steeple that was almost as hard to preserve as the neck of the lovely swan, a star or two, a motherly-looking female who looked more like a femme fatale if you elongated her when moving from the cutting board to the baking pan, and inexplicably a rabbit, a hen, a club, a heart, a spade and a diamond. Some of those metal cutters were my mother's, pre-World War I, but most she bought in the 20's and bestowed them on me when I married.

I have the trusty wooden spoon she used for all her mixing, worn down comfortably on one side, and now a historic artifact that works perfectly. My sentimental daughter has dibs on that when it's available.

I DON'T use mom's old baking pans. I prefer to bake cookies on a couple of the modern, double-thick insulated pans that help prevent burning and are much easier to handle. (I still haven't learned to bake all this stuff without burning my fingers at least once on an oven shelf, though.

So come on, Christmas, I may not have bought half the presents yet, but by golly the baking will be done and I still have Christmas Eve to finish the shopping, right?

Merry Christmas, and happy holidays one and all.
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