I listen to our local public radio station throughout the day at work, and on December 1, 2011, the topic on All Sides With Ann Fisher was Christmas cookies, and cookie memories. Here's the program archive in case you'd like to listen. Be warned, though. It seems to have turned me into a wannabe-baker! Ann was interviewing Robin Davis, the food editor for the local daily, and they were asking for listeners to tell their stories about holiday baking. I sent this email (can't call in from my work phone):
My Aunt Wanda raised two of her younger sisters after their mother died in the '40s, and was the hub of our family. She used to bake Christmas cookies, and would turn out a COUPLE THOUSAND cookies every year. She'd give them to her friends and neighbors, her Ladies' Auxiliary members, and (hallelujah!) would pack them in tins and mail to family far and wide. Aunt Wanda would make butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, no-bakes, apricot bars (my favorite!), thumbprints, and dozens of other varieties.
She has Alzheimers now, and hasn't baked in many years, but getting that tin of Christmas cookies in the mail was one of the high points of the season for me, for many, many years. My friends, too - I'd share them out, and it got to the point that people would ask me "Have the Aunt Wanda cookies come yet?"
A few years ago, I took her spiral notebook of recipes and had copies made and bound for close family, so we all have her recipes now, in her handwriting.
After sending that email, I was struck by a bolt from the blue. I have her recipes. I can bake her cookies! I. Must. Bake. Cookies. That's the first event.
It turned out that my favorite apricot bar cookies were a little daunting for me, but the pumpkin drop cookies were very do-able! For me, anyway. The pathetic electric hand mixer? Not so much. In making the first batch, I burned out the motor in my mixer. (As a testament to my near-total ignorance of things kitchen, I asked my husband, "Will it be OK if I just let it rest?" He said, "No, when they smell like that, they're dead forever." So into the garbage with the Hamilton Beach, and onto the phone to ask Judy to borrow her KitchenAid.
Well, that KitchenAid completely and thoroughly kicked the ass of the pumpkin cookie dough, and I immediately put one (OK, I put TWO) on my wishlist at Amazon.com. That's the second event.
The third event was that I finally got my bachelors degree! Yes, I'm really and officially BS now. You know what college graduation means, don't you? Presents!! My darling husband said I could get a KitchenAid of my very own for a graduation present! Even though Judy would let me borrow hers any time (really - she is just that nice!), there's just something special about having your own KitchenAid sitting on the kitchen counter waiting for blastoff at any moment.
The fourth unrelated event was a decent-sized income tax refund, and the clincher that has led me to the state I'm in today is worthy of a post all its own.