When I think of Christmas, the young peoples’ adjective comes to mind: “Sweet!” thanks to my mother, the ace baker/candymaker. She worked in a cloud of powdered sugar amid smells from heaven. She created cookies by the dozens, some with her trusty cookie press and others rolled and cut out.
First Mom mixed the dough, some with cream cheese, other batches flavored with peppermint or almond. Then she’d store it in the fridge (sometimes, I slip and still call it an “ice box”) for an hour or so. Next, she’d dust off the cookie press and create cookies in all shapes, colors and flavors. Remember that tool, the pre-cursor of today’s Super Shooter? They called it a “press” for a reason. She’d extrude Christmas trees colored green, candy canes in pink and bells in both colors. Other days she’d make lemon-flavored cookies or chocolate ones with cream cheese.
Next came the rolled cookies which she’d let me help cut out, if I were careful and followed her instructions. There were Santas in sleighs, reindeer, stars, snowmen and my personal favorites, Gingerbread boys and girls with raisin buttons. All were sprinkled with colored sugar before baking or topped with runny powdered sugar icing afterward.
Her final creation was Divinity, a delicacy that’s almost disappeared from the American candy landscape. Its name was perfect, since I thought the stuff heavenly. For the uninitiated, it is a cooked candy similar to meringue, but slightly denser. Mom left some batches pure white, almond flavored and topped with a red maraschino cherry. Other batches were tinted pink or green, mint flavored and topped with peppermint pieces or a pecan half. Are your drooling yet? I am. She gave away cookies and candy to the neighbors, my friends, my teachers, the ladies from her church group and anyone who would take them.
I guess you’d call it the Old School version of ordering from Harry and David, but a lot more personal, even if not exactly toute suite.