Christmas is a season rooted in tradition. Some are shared by most people – presents, family time, relaxing with friends, Delilah playing an unwelcome amount of Kenny G music on commercial soft rock radio. Others are specific traditions held by individuals that help define what the holidays mean to them.
Last weekend, after an extremely long day of visiting every major department store chain in America and still not finding all the Christmas presents we wanted to buy, my wife and I headed home to make cookies. We had Soma FM’s “Xmas in Frisko” station playing in the car through the new Soma Android app, which is an eclectic blend of holiday songs performed by everyone from Billy Gilman to Billy Corgan, and other artists not named Billy. We live in a town with a lot of industrial businesses that often have machines and parts and large metal thingies outside their buildings, and we played a short game of “invent the purpose of that piece of weird-looking machinery” while sitting at red lights. Honestly, I don’t know how people learn to operate some of these contraptions. Looking at them, I think I’d have just as much luck operating Walter Bishop’s universe-jumping portal.
When we got home, it wasn’t time to rest, but time to start one of our holiday traditions – one that is part of millions of people’s annual fun, but is important to us – Making cookies. Everyone knows by now that my wife and I work more hours than I would recommend for any human, so this was the first opportunity we had to spend the day together, and the only chance we would have to both shop and bake in the same day. The goals: standard peanut butter blossoms, sugar cookies in all sorts of good shapes, jelly-filled cream cheese thumbprint-type things and chocolate chip with white chocolate, cranberry and cocoa roasted almonds.
We spent the next 6ish hours baking, starting with the sugar cookies. We make them the real way, not the pussy way where you just slice one of those logs with the red dye #40 stamp of Santa running through the shaft. We made about four or five dozen cookies, primarily using the same Christmas cookie cutters that once belonged to my grandma and made me cookies every year when I was growing up. It’s fantastic to stand in her kitchen and use her tools to create familiar shapes that have been part of my holiday memories for as long as I have had memories.
I wanted to make a Starfleet Command emblem out of the dough scraps at the end, but unfortunately my physical art skills aren’t even good enough to accomplish a sufficient-looking vertical boomerang. Laura let out a sarcastic “Oh, what a shame.”
After the sugar cookies, we moved through the chocolate chip white chocolate cranberry cocoa roasted almond cookies, which I named Crocodiles because saying chocolate chip white chocolate cranberry cocoa roasted almond cookies is more tiring than it was to bake them. Laura didn’t understand the name. I feel like you can glean bits of all the ingredients out of the sounds in the word “Crocodile” if you try hard enough. At least in my mind. They’re also lumpy and weird looking because of the amount of stuff in them. And guess what? Crocodiles are lumpy and weird. There are so many parallels that make it an awesome name that I can’t even control myself. Don’t you disagree with me.
Making peanut butter blossoms has been a requirement since I’ve been old enough to chew them. It’s also idiot-proof. The hardest part is opening all the Hershey Kisses, which I’m convinced I should be able to buy packaged without the foil on them for cookie-making purposes so I don’t have to lean against my counter like a knob unwrapping them for 20 minutes. Explain to me why this hasn’t been made available. Laura said it’s because they’d melt together in the sack. I believe that like Hamlet believes his uncle Claudius is a nice guy. Chocolate chips don’t melt together in the bag, how would kisses be any different? And that was a stupid simile. So rank, it smells to heaven. And now it just got worse.
The only cookies that got ruined were the cream cheese jelly things. They burned to death on the bottom before the tops even started cooking. We blame the dark-colored cookie sheet we probably shouldn’t have been using to bake them, since everything else with their assembly was done well. Amirite, @NerdyBaker?
Even though my back was killing me from shopping all day in disgusting crowds of irritable people followed by standing in the kitchen for several hours, even though we murdered 25% of our cookies and even though we consumed two pizzas and a few beers mid-way through baking and felt tremendously fat and had no desire to eat any of the cookies after we made them, it was an awesome day. So far this year, I had been a little depressed that nothing had felt like Christmas. The tree has been up, the lights have been up, the calendar says the days until Christmas are getting slim, but nothing about it felt right to me. Maybe it was the fact it’s been 55 degrees out most of the time, for whatever horrible reason. Maybe it was because of how generally busy I’ve been, I never had a chance to stand back, look around and mentally process the season. Whatever the cause, it was approaching, and I didn’t really care. And while I’m not some crazy holiday loving nut, that bothered me.
The good thing is spending the day with Laura buying things for other people and making our holiday cookies finally brought the season together. Getting to be with her and do the things we do each year made everything meld, and suddenly the lights on the house and the fake evergreen in the living room and the pine-scented Plug-In made sense. It finally started to feel like Christmas was coming. And that’s what it’s all about.
Now if only we could do something about Kenny G…