Day Ten: Today, be inspired by a favorite childhood meal. For the twist, focus on infusing the post with your unique voice — even if that makes you a little nervous. Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.
In my house, Christmas rules over everything. Boxes upon boxes are carried up from the basement; there are so many that half don’t even see the light of day some years.
We’re not talking just a few ornaments on a tree here, either. Themed trees find a place in each room. Snowmen in the dining room. Santas in the kitchen. Mice (my mom has always collected mouse ornaments since my parents were married) in the foyer. The living room tree sparkles with antique glass ornaments and silver icicles.
Trees aren’t the only things that make an appearance. Decorations on the wall are swapped out with holiday ones. The shelves and mantle in the living room are filled with an assortment of Santas, some new and some antique. The tops of the cabinets in the kitchen feature a line of Eldreth pottery Santas, one from each year- farther back than I can even remember.
It’s a winter wonderland, and not the least bit tacky. Christmastime at my parents’ house is like stepping into a Better Homes & Gardens magazine.
My family is not one to cook or bake a lot. I guess it comes from days spent at school followed by evenings at the dance studio. Time at the dinner table was few and far between.
The holidays were always different. Years ago, my grandmother would bake tray after tray of cookies. From traditional favorites, to some that I have only ever seen in her recipe box. I loved when it was cookie time and would sneak as many as possible.
Now that my grandparents are older, my mom has taken over a bit of the baking. With busy schedules, it’s hard to find the time to get them done to the extent that they have been in the past. Sometimes, we don’t even get some varieties done until after Christmas has passed.
My favorite have always been anise cookies. I have never ever seen anyone else bake these, and many brush them off, turned off by the smell of them. Not me. I could eat cookie after cookie and never be satisfied.
Each anise cookie is cut into the shape of an animal. The elephants and geese are always my favorite. Lions, mice, and more make appearances as well. The cookies bake up to the perfect amount of puff, never losing the soft-baked feeling (don’t ask me how, it just happens). We mix up a variety of colors of icing to decorate the cookies, pastel shades of pink, blue, yellow and green.
These cookies are a team effort. The dough must be mixed, then chilled overnight. We roll it out on the counter and punch out the shapes with our selection of cookie cutters. They line up on the tray and into the oven they go. As they bake and cool, I mix food dye into the different bowls of icing, searching for that perfect shade of pink.
Lots of things change, but the holidays always keep a sense of sameness for my family. It’s comforting to know that I’ll always come home to a giant, sparkling Christmas tree, puppies curled up in front of the fire, and a basket of cookie cutters ready to be put to use.
I don’t get home that often (sorry mom & dad) but when I do, it’s little things like this that remind me how lucky I am. Lucky to have a place to call home, a family that supports me no matter what, and of course, for pink elephant cookies.