Monday, December 19, 2005

All Day, We Worked...

But before I get started, let me say that zinc works wonders. I think I still have the cold, because I am totally wiped out and exhausted, but I have remained relatively symptom-free in the nose department. The trick is to start with zinc tablets or lozenges every hour. I found some sugar-free ones, and they basically have no flavor at all. You let them dissolve in your mouth-- don't chew or swallow. They really seem to work as long as you get going as soon as the symptoms start. The Daughter resisted-- and she's going through tissues at a most alarming rate.

The cookie-baking saga is an annual event in my family. My Gramma (the one from Austria) used to make mountains of cookies for us. We always got a bunch at Christmas, but she'd send them to us at summer camp, at college, a couple of times a year after we moved away from home -- I don't know how she did it. All by herself.

As she got pretty advanced in years, she didn't have the strength for all the beating and rolling and generalized stamina it takes to make her masterpieces. So she would come over to my Mom's house, and my sisters would help her. (I was away from home by this time, and missed out on lessons from The Master.) The first of my sisters became the new cookie guru, and gleaned the nuances of the art.

After Gramma died, that sister would sometimes make some cookies, but then we all decided that we really needed to keep the cookies alive. So First Sister and I made a little cookbook for all our family members with the recipes and techniques in it. It's just a little thing-the size of postcards, but we did a rather nice job, if I do say so myself. All the pages are laminated, and it's bound with the plastic comb thingees.

The most labor-intensive is the flaky cookie. It's quite something. It has two types of dough, and they get rolled out, and the dough gets folded up, and then you have to let it rest and then roll it out again a couple of times. (We finally figured out that one of the doughs can be done with the dough hook on the Kitchen Aid mixer. We think that Gramma would approve, in the interest of keeping the cookies going.) There's a special way they need to be cut, and then they are filled with Solo pastry filling and baked. Then they get rolled in sugar-- some in powdered and some in granulated sugar. These things take forever to make, and each batch makes 3 dozen. Do the math: I have 4 brothers and 4 sisters, plus my Mom & Dad, plus our collective spouses and 24-going-on-26 children, the youngest of whom is 7. We ended up making 3 batches, and with all the other types of cookies and brownies, it almost did us in. These are the best cookies on earth, and if we made 10 dozen, they would all get scarfed up. Gramma used to say (with her Austrian accent)--All Day ve verk...

(Alternatively, the almond crescents are quick and easy-- we made 20 dozen of them, and except for the fact that the youngest of my sisters ended up elbow-deep in powdered sugar for much of the day....)

So The Daughter and I arrived in Chicago at 10:30 on Saturday, started baking at my Second Sister's at 11:30, did cookies pretty much all day (although I needed a bit of a nap for about 20 mins) and we got back to my parents' at about 2 am. My Third Sister drove down with her youngest (4th grader) from Minneapolis for the event, and my Second Brother's wife and their daughter (high schooler)flew in from Omaha. We all returned to our respective homes mid-day on Sunday.

We take cookies seriously.

1 comment:

Rossana said...

What a very precious tradition! I'm so glad you and your family are keeping it alive. I can't keep track of how many dozens of cookies that is, but it sure sounds heavenly to be around so many of your cherished family while keeping Gramma's memory alive. Merry Christmas!