‘Tis the season where a plethora of poundage-creating delights seemingly greet you everywhere you go, and it is no different at work. I heard a statistic that Americans gain ten pounds between Thanksgiving and the end of the year from over-indulging in rich, calorie-laden sweets and treats and goodies galore. I don’t know if I believe that. I always ate what I wanted during the holiday season and gained maybe two or three pounds and that small increase was not due to walking or exercise or a youthful high metabolism … believe me, I never met a cookie I wouldn’t try nor that I didn’t like! Speaking of cookies, did you know that today is National Bake Cookies Day? That’s a new one on me and it did not make the Hallmark card-giving events, but is significant nonetheless. Back when I worked at a the law firm, before Robb and I went out on our own, we had 75 people including attorneys and support staff and we encompassed two floors. Starting after Thanksgiving it seemed every Monday, the counters in the 10th and 11th floor kitchens, were lined with rows and rows of brownies, bars and cookies. Brownies laced with nuts or without, topped with fudgy icing or sprinkles of red and green sugar and one attorney always crumbled up candy canes on top of his batch of brownies. How divine for a chocoholic and a little sugar high going at the water cooler and coffeemaker as you sipped coffee and discussed your weekend with co-workers before you headed back to your respective offices and work stations. Throughout the work week, after the initial influx of treats following weekend baking, more cookies, bars, cake and fudge trickled in. But, the most-famous perennial holiday treat at the Firm was Eileen’s Bacardi Rum cake. She always brought it in the morning after the Firm Christmas party. She was not stingy with the rum in her chocolate and white pound cakes and once she opened the Tupperware container, the fumes emanated out of the kitchen and way down the hall. My offering was usually peanut butter cookies with Hershey Kisses, but I always took in a special treat just for the support staff during Christmas week. I have always loved the Voortman gingerbread men so I’d buy a dozen or so for myself to eat during the Christmas season alongside a cup of cocoa, plus I’d get a gingerbread man for each of the support staff. My mom and I would wrap each one in a form-fitting plastic bag and use festive red and green curling ribbon to secure the bag and put a handwritten hang tag with each person’s name on it. The girls usually pinned the bag on their bulletin board or propped it up in a corner of their work area. As Christmas neared and the workload versus the condensed open business hours made the pace frantic, usually a gingerbread man arm or leg was hastily eaten as lunch hours were shortened or skipped to get the work done and out the door and send everyone home for a much-needed holiday respite.
Pies, tarts and cakes were not my downfall in the past, but cookies were another thing. I’ve sworn off sweets and treats now and while I don’t crave sweets at all, I am also not subjected to them either. There is no wafting of fresh baked goods in the kitchen here to beckon me to indulge in two or three or four warm cookies. The Meijer I frequent does not prepare their baked goods on site, so there is no temptation there either. My mom loved to bake and she would have all her cookie-baking activities done the week after Thanksgiving so she would concentrate on churning out a variety of tarts the week before Christmas. The cookies were stored in Tupperware tubs in the bottom of the cupboard and I was famous for reaching down blindly and lifting the lid and grabbing a few cookies out of the closest container and sometimes breaking the lid in the process. Mom would make something to please everyone in our family: peanut butter and chocolate Buckeyes, Christmas cut-out sugar cookies, Russian teacakes, pfeffernüsses, chocolate pinwheels, almond macaroons, Mrs. Maltman’s raspberry jam sandwich cookies chocolate rum balls, almond crescents, Scottish shortbread and candy cane cookies. My mom made candy cane cookies for me every year as long as I can remember, and long after her “baby” was grown. When I was in grade school back in the 60s we didn’t have “snack day”, but most of the moms sent in baked goods to share with the other kids at Christmastime. My mom always whipped up a batch of peppermint-flavored candy cane cookies for my classmates plus some for here at the house. Over the years, she bemoaned the fact that her huge turquoise melamac mixing bowl was stained a dark red from the food dye used to create the red ropes of dough to braid the unbaked cookies. That mixing bowl is still around and is probably as old as I am. I use it for washing greens now, but often, while gazing into that melamac bowl with its maroon-colored stains that have lingered all these years and long after my mom is gone, I will remember those candy cane cookies, created with love to be gobbled up and enjoyed.