Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Currency: Cookies

We're back from the distant lands of Portland/Vancouver and all the holiday hubbub.  While it was a wonderful time away on many fronts, being back here at home is sort of a relief--especially in regards to sweets.   It became apparent to me after observing my family and attending a few gatherings that Christmas cookies & sweets really are the "Currency of Christmas".  (Tisk, tisk that you would ever enter another's home without bearing some currency.)

Apparently in normal households, multiple kinds of these baked goods are made and then placed in tins or on festive paper plates.  These are given to people who you like enough to want to give them something but not enough to make it non-perishable and of course cookies/sweets are mandatory at ALL holiday gatherings.   There are many different kinds of sweets--some awesomely good, some "who-actually-eats-these?" not--but always more than you ever could (ever should) eat so invariably these cookies/sweets get rolled onto another plate or tin that is then given to someone else or taken to another gathering.  And the cycle continues.

Some cookie receivers feel obligated to eat the sweets just because they are around and then disgustedly let it be known that they gained 3 pounds after weighing themselves at the gym.  (Right, Dad?)  But sometimes these "gifts" expire without garnering true appreciation in some one's belly and it really is a shame when you stop to think about the effort that went into it.  But at a certain point you hit a sugar wall and hide them under the pile of Christmas cards and letters you received (the other official currency of Christmas).  The left over cookies become something one must "wait out" until they can in good conscience throw them away.

In a moment of clarity during my holiday glucose haze, I wondered why does this happen?  There is such an abundance of treats already this time of year that it's compounded by all this compulsory baking.  Why do people do this?  Is it obligation or guilt or desiring to squeeze one more thing in during a very stressful time period?  Or is it some insatiable nostalgia bent that says, 'If I just baked the perfect cookie, this Christmas will turn out to be everything I'd ever dreamed of and more?'  Those who say they just do it for the 'love' baking, I don't believe it.

However full disclosure, yes, I'm guilty of contributing to this phenomenon but to a lesser extent.  I personally make only one type of cookie called pizzelles which are a traditional Italian waffle cone-like cookie with anise (black licorice) flavoring.  It's an acquired taste but truly Italian.  I make a small batch and send a few tins to my husband's family on the East Coast and keep some for ourselves.  And that's it.  They are actually good in any season and, from what I hear, can survive over a year in an air tight container.  So a cookie for all seasons.

But what I found the most amusing this year when the cookie/sweet population was at it's peak, was that my husband decided that he was going off sugar...in December. This meant that any candy/cookie-like item that entered this house was my responsibility.  And it meant that our journey south would be ripe with temptation. And it meant that he would eventually break this vow and feel bad about it.  See all the trouble these things cause...

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