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My Mom's recipe box.

I sent an email to my aunts about our family gift exchange as I couldn’t remember who I drew or, actually, if we drew names. I seem to recall something at our family reunion, but I’m not really clear on it. My mind turned toward Christmas and getting ready for the whole big tadoo. And, inevitably, for me, that means cookies. Just as my thoughts turned in that direction, I let out a soft sigh and said, “Cookies.”

My daughter, who was sitting directly across from me at the table, looked down at the very recently emptied pie plate sitting in front of me and back up at me with a shocked horror. “You just had pie, and now you want cookies?”

The look on her face had me giggling straight to tears and it took me a while to explain my whole thought process and that, no, I wasn’t actually interested in eating cookies, but planning the making of cookies. It used to be that I would make 10-12 varieties of cookies, package them up, and send them to various friends and family. I think my shopping list went something like five dozen eggs, ten pounds butter, fifteen pounds flour, three pounds chocolate chips, six pounds nuts…well, you get the idea. I never got the feeling that the cookies weren’t appreciated, but lifestyles have changed in the last twenty years and eating so much sugar and fat laden baked goods just isn’t being done so much any more.

I will still make some cookies, but I’ve pared it down to making one kind of cookie per person in the immediate household. That’s just six kinds of cookies, and that’s easy for me to knock out in no time. My mother in law will make rolled-iced sugar cookies and host a couple of fun filled icing parties with my son and his friends. (Yay! The only kind of cookie that I don’t like making are rolled and cut.) We’ll have plenty of cookies to put on plates and take to various parties and gatherings, a few to indulge ourselves with over the holidays, and that will be more than enough.

My mom would start making cookies a day or two after Thanksgiving. We had one 12″ reel-to-reel Heathkit made tape player that had one tape in it year round–a collection Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and others of that era singing secular Christmas diddies. My mom would crank it up loud and hum to ol’ blue eyes crooning away while rolling cookie dough into balls and placing them evenly onto cookie sheets. Most butter cookies taste better after they sit in a tightly closed box for a few weeks, so she’d start with those and move toward the more delicate and less sturdy cookies.

My mom's recipe box with the recipe in front.

Once I’d moved out and started my own baking, I had this tradition of calling my mom on a yearly basis for one recipe in particular. I’d write it down on a scrap of paper and lose the scrap by the following year. Deep down, I think it was just an excuse to get me to call my mom–not necessary really, since I talked to her three times a week anyway. After she died, I got her old-fashioned recipe box. I didn’t open it for months, well, not until after Thanksgiving. When I opened it, I saw that the recipe in front was the one I had been calling her for. Apparently, she didn’t use this box much any more…maybe not at all except for my phone call. It was pretty clear that the last time she’d used it was when I had called her. I’ve used it several times in the last few years looking for recipes I remember from my childhood (Aunt Doris’ tamale pie, Grandma Herbert’s Cracker Jack…) I don’t move things around and always leave the cookie recipe right back in front where I can find it.

Scandinavian Oatmeal Cookies
3 Cups quick cooking rolled oats finely ground
3/4 C soft Butter
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
Halved Walnuts

Grind oats through medium fine block in food chopper. Combine with softened butter, sugar and vanilla. Work at low speed with mixer or hands. Form into small balls and place on lightly buttered cookie sheet. Put half a nut onto top. Bake at 325° until very lightly browned. These store very well in a tightly closed container up to 6 weeks. They taste better after at LEAST a week.

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