When I was a kid, the weeks leading up to Christmas were literally the sweet spot for my Dad and my sisters and I because Mom would be baking up a storm.
Butter cookies in the shapes of trees and wreaths with colored crystals sprinkled on them, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, linzer tarts, butter cookies with a dollop of melted chocolate in the center…you name it, she was pumping these tasty treats out like crazy in the cramped kitchen of our Bronx apartment.
The sounds of whirring electric beaters and clanging cookie sheets could be heard until well past 10 p.m. as she baked mounds and mounds of cookies for family and friends.
This was also a special time of the year since, as I got older, I could help her in the kitchen to prepare the dough and do KP. I got to spend time at my mother’s elbow learning how to bake, but just as importantly, simply to spend time with her.
Her talents in mass-producing such delectable treats sparked a cat-and-mouse game between Mom and the rest of the family. She would have to hide the many tins brimming with cookies so my sisters and Dad and I would not raid them.
(I recall sneaking cookies from the tins and rearranging the layers so as to hide my tracks and make it appear nothing had been removed. Forget it. I had Dick Tracy for a mother and she could spot the telltale signs of cookie pilfering.)
True story: When in my teens I transcribed many of my mother’s recipes on a typewriter, I included these instructions at the bottom of her butter cookie recipe: “Place into cookie tins and scream at husband and kids for eating them all just before Christmas.”
That notation was but just one example of what a major smart ass I was as a kid. As much as I admired Mom’s baking prowess, it was not beyond the reach of the snarkiness of my young adulthood.
Back then, and even today, Mom liked her cordials and her occasional beer. Well, one night (30 years ago to the month, in fact) she was baking and quaffing her thirst in the hot kitchen with a Michelob beer.
What came next was that she burned a batch of cookies and, separately, realized she forgot to add eggs to one of her cookie doughs!
While it’s more likely that fatigue rather than imbibing contributed to these errors, it was fodder for yours truly to write up a “ticket” for B.W.I: Baking While Intoxicated.
My Mom kept the ticket, lo these many years, and as you can see in the photo I noted under “Course of Action: Lock up all the liquor to prevent nipping. (She has a previous record of making too much merry with Hagen Daz cordial.)”
It was signed by “U.R. Sloshed, Officer in Charge (Kitchen Detail).”
But here’s the thing: No matter how much baking I do, my handiwork still cannot compare to hers – even if she’s been tippling!