Friday, August 19, 2005

Cookies, Cookie Day, and More Cookies 

The focus now will be on cookies instead of breads, cakes, pies, tarts, and other baked goods.

This is a good thing. Cookies are portable, bite-sized nuggets of yummy goodness. They are comforting as Grandma’s kitchen, and as indulgent as any edible commendation (Do you like that phrase? I do.). A sweet reward, a quick pick-me-up.

When I was a child, decades before Manager came into existence, we always had cookies in our lunchbox to eat or trade in the schoolyard. Cookies would be packed into small leather boxes to carry as snacks as we did our chores – and living in a small rural town, we always had chores. Cookies were always offered when we went visiting. More even than coffee or milk, cookies were our social lubricant.

Our village even had an annual Cookie Day Celebration, held on December 12th of every year. We had different festivals for each month day (January 1, February 2, March 3, April 4, etc), but Cookie Day was special.

Our little village was built with cobblestone streets that went up to the houses. The front doors opened straight into the cobblestone ways with no front yards at all. Bear in mind my grandfather was a teenager before the first car was ever invented – and the village was far older than he was.

Just imagine the day as I lived it each year:

On Cookie Day, each family would prepare and set a table out on the cobblestones in front of their house, stacked high with their special cookies. Each family had at least one special cookie and many had several. Some families decorated their tables with ribbons and flowers and offered milk or hot chocolate to the children.

The oldest child would get a market basket and wander from table to table, sampling and selecting cookies to bring back to their family. Families with no children of their own would borrow younger siblings to gather cookies for them.

Musicians would play on the street corners, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Down the hill, where the business district was (such as it is in a small town: the baker, the butcher, the dry goods store, the beauty shop, and the tavern), long trestle tables were set up with an actual stage and a band playing. Here, the children too old to be the cookie collector gathered to sip “kinderbier” and sodas, eat bratwursts and pomfrits from the street vendor, and eavesdrop on the adults who’d gathered there to drink beer and watch the children too young to collect cookies.

It was my favorite day of the year.

I’ve been trying to figure out how we could have a Cookie Day in a large city where people hardly know their neighbors, and few bother to bake anymore. I think I may have a way to emulate a part of it.

It would take some advance organizing and a small investment – hardly more than a good meal out.

1. Advance advertising to attract participants – flyers, newspaper articles, announcements on community bulletin boards and at day care centers, that sort of thing, would be the first step, since the date is already set. OK, I know December 12th is on a Monday this year, and since most folks can’t take a Monday off from work (unless you run it just in the evening for a couple of hours), it could be moved to the 10th or 11th.

2. The next step is to select a location. I prefer a park with a picnic pavilion, even for December weather. Outdoors just adds to the festive ambiance, unless you live in a really cold and snowy area. The bonus on using a park is that it’s often free, even a permit is simply a matter of reserving the pavilion.

3. Once you have a few people interested in the Cookie Day, you can mail out detailed information on how to do it, including the location and maps. Then, you can increase the participation by sending out new press releases and flyers that give date and location and mention some of the scrumptious cookies and families already on the list.

4. Now, secure entertainment – garage bands can be fun and will often play for cookies. Perhaps some of the cookie bakers will have musical family members who want a chance to perform. It never hurts to include a question about that on the flyer.

5. A few days before the Cookie Day, remember to bake your own table full of cookies as you prepare the program guide you’ll be handing out, which lists who will be there, what cookies they have, and who will be playing.

6. Collect decorations – balloons, ribbons, banners, flowers, extra tables and chairs, tablecloths, paper cups for beverages, and get them ready.

7. The morning of Cookie Day, set up the tables, put up the decorations, help the bakers arrange their cookies, show the performers where they “stages” are, put up any needed tents or awnings in case of damp weather, and welcome everyone to Cookie Day!

How it works: One adult stays with their table of cookies, but the rest of the family can spell them and everyone can get a chance to roam the tables, sample cookies, and fill a basket with goodies to take home. They can listen to the music, dance if the mood strikes, and nibble.

The rules are very simple:

1. Every participating family must provide a table full of cookies. Home baked is preferred, from a special family recipe if possible. This is ever so much less expensive than buying cookies from a store or bakery, or even using the pre-made cookie doughs. There should be enough cookies for every participating family to get at least a dozen of each cookie.
2. Each family must provide their own COokie Collecting Basket. It should be big enough to comfortably hold all hte cookies, and bringing waxed paper or something to help cushion the layers of cookies is a Good Idea.
3. Exercise courtesy in collecting cookies. Limit your first round to no more than a dozen cookies from each table. Once everyone has collected their first dozen cookies from each table, they can then go back and collect extras of their favorites untill all the cookies are redistributed to everyone there.
4. Enjoy the cookies and have a grest time!

Probably you can’t get away with serving beer, but you might be able to find a vendor or two to sell bratwursts and fries, just to balance out the sweetness of the cookies.

Since it’s August, and we have 4 months to plan, I think I’m going to try to go for it.

It ought to be fun.

And if you want to try it in your city, just tell folks “This Cookie Day celebration is brought to you through the creative efforts of the Cracked Cauldron and (insert your name here).And let us know how well it goes for you!

Cookie Day. Let’s make it a nation-wide day of sweet connections!

A Simple Cookie

2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 egg whites
Chocolate chips

Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks and set aside for a moment. Beath the sugar into the peanut butter. Fold the beaten egg whites and peanut butter together. Drop by scant teaspoons onto parchment paper, that new quick release foil, or a silpat type mat. Sprinkle a few chocolate chips on each cookie. Bake at 375º for 10 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from the parchment paper.

If you made them teeny tiny, you should get 3 dozen cookies from this, and moderately small will make at least 2 dozen. You really don't want them any bigger because they are quite rich.

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