American Culture

'Tis the Season for Cookies

They seemed innocuous enough—pre-cut circles of cookie dough, maybe an inch in diameter, with pictures of snowmen in the center.

They came on a sheet of cardboard backing, in a plastic bag, in a flat box no bigger than a sheet of paper. How could so much tasty goodness come in such a small package?

As I opened the plastic bag, the circles tumbled off their cardboard backing and landed, with thick plops, on the kitchen countertop. I just had to spread them on an ungreased cookie sheet, pop them into the oven for nine minutes, and voila! Pillsbury Christmas cookie deliciousness.

Addictive Pillsbury Christmas cookie deliciousness.

Highly addictive.

So addictive, in fact, that I’ve started calling them “crack cookies.”

And try as I might, I can’t “Just say ‘No’” to them.

Who’d have guessed the Pillsbury Doughboy would be cookie pusher? He looks so friendly and happy and ready to bake yummy goodies. Who would suspect that those yummy goodies would be so yummy and so good that an unsuspecting snacker might want to eat sixteen dozen cookies in a single sitting? That’s just plain insidious.

My Grandma Verne had a thing for the Doughboy. Had she been a Doughgirl, my Grandpa Bill probably would’ve had a little something to worry about. The Doughboy is hard to resist. Poke him in the tummy and he giggles and doubles over—and all the while he’s thinking, “Revenge for this indignity is mine! I have delicious cookies for you that you will not be able to stop eating.”

The cookies, as I’ve said, take nine minutes to bake. They take one minute to cool after they come out of the oven—a minute I enjoy by savoring the warm, sweet cookie smell that whooshes through the kitchen the moment I open the oven door.

I carefully spatula the cookies onto a cooling rack where, if I’m really patient, the cookies might get five more minutes to cool.

If I’m not patient, none of the cookies last that long. They might be gone in three.

My kids know that if they want a cookie, their window of opportunity is short. They must circle the kitchen like airplanes stacked and racked in the skies above O’Hare International on a snowy holiday night. When the weather clears, they must swoop in quickly before the window closes: “Christmas cookies now arriving at Gate Twelve.”

I’m no baker, so these pre-cut, easy-to-bake crack cookies are about all I can manage. They serve as a tasty stop-gap to get me from Thanksgiving pumpkin pie to the real treat of the holiday season: my wife’s shortbread Christmas cookies.

My mom used to make similar cookies when my brother and I were kids. She’d mix up the dough and roll it out, and my brother and I would attack the rolled dough with cookie cutters. After baking, we’d glob on frosting made with confectionary sugar, water, and food coloring. We inevitably frosted ourselves, too.

My wife makes Christmas cookies the same way. Although the cookie-baking extravaganza always seems to turn into a huge mess, it’s the best kind of mess and a highlight of the season. She’ll fill cookie tin upon cookie tin with the frosted cut-outs: stars and bells and angels and evergreen trees. We cut out reindeer, too, always careful not to break off the antlers or the back the legs, which are so fragile because they’re so thin. Of course, anything that gets broken gets eaten almost immediately, so the final collection of cookies looks pristine. (And, as a bonus, a friend once told me broken Christmas cookies are caloree-free!)

My wife’s mother also bakes tons of cookies, although she gets more elaborate with her goodies. I know she makes cut-out cookies and little round balls covered with white powdered sugar and perhaps a half a dozen other varieties, too, but I can’t recall anything specifically because I pass everything over in favor of the nut cups she makes. Oh, those nut cups. Her peanut brittle is to die for, too.

By the end of the Christmas cookie season, which wraps up shortly after New Year’s, I have a lot in common with that Doughboy.

Then begins the long effort through winter to work off all those cookies.

After all, I have to be back in shape in time for cookie season next year.

4 replies »

  1. You had a very different experience than I did with those things – I ate one raw, you know, just to make sure they tasted OK. But, when I baked them, I was very disappointed with the results because 1. the tops didn’t turn golden brown until after the bottoms had burned and 2. they don’t appear to bake all the way through.

  2. Oh honey, if you are that desperate for cookies, give me a mailing address. Those aren’t cookies, they are barely qualifying as food.

    Lara Amber

  3. My family likes to use “non-standard” Christmas cookies too – the Starship Enterprise decked out in red and green, a steam locomotive turned into the Hogwarts Express, holly leafs turned into bats with black frosting from Santa’s boots, Rudolph with a bullet wound carefully removed from his chest with a toothpick, that sort of thing.