Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Slow Cookie Epiphany

Every year I have the intention of making 13 different types of cookies for my solstice party, a tradition adapted from the Southern European custom of serving 13 desserts on Christmas Eve. I've never made it to 13; my highest number is 7.

This year, since my goal for my Solstice party was to be as relaxed as possible, I decided to make just my favorite cookies, one batch a night during the week leading up to the party. I also halved the cookie recipes which helped enormously--no more juggling multiple baking trays and drying racks.

But by Wednesday night, I was cranky. I had to throw away two batches of cookies, one because the sour cream had gone bad, the other because I accidently put in too much baking soda. I started to get a little panicked about getting all the cookeis done. I was in a hurry and impatient. The dough kept sticking to the rolling pin. The cookies fell apart when pried from the cookie cutters or else they stuck to the bread board. The kitchen was hot. It was late. I wanted to go to bed.

That's when I had my cookie epiphany. I realized that when you're just checking off items on your to-do list, even if they're things as fundamentally satisfying as making cookies or writing a novel, they become chores.

I decided to slow down and enjoy the process. Who cares if I didn't make a lot of cookies? I could always buy cookies at the store. And as soon as I slowed down, that magical thing happens which always happens in slow time. Time just flew by while I was savoring the silky feel of the flour, the pliancy of the dough, the scent of the spices. The cookies started behaving, rolling out perfectly on the board, filling the baking sheets, emerging from the oven golden and fragrant.

Over the next few nights, I revelled in the cookie-making process. I was alone and sometimes wondered if it would be more fun if I were sharing the experience, but I also liked the silence which allowed me give the process my full attention. Cookie making became a meditation.

In the end, I only made three of my favorite cookies (Kourabiedes, Advent pretzels and Zimsterne). Since I never got around to making my signature lavender shortbread cookies, I did buy some excellent ginger shortbread cookies at the store, but you know what? No one at the party ate any of the store-bought cookies. Apparently they prefer slow time cookies.

1 comment:

eve said...

After having my annual Halloween cookies burn on too-dark cookie sheets and trying to get excited about having my teenage grandchildren over to bake Christmas cookies (they ASKED to come bake!), seeing your cookie baking problems and meditation mode gave me encouragement. I looking forward to Saturday now.

Eve (Independence, MO)