Friday, December 15, 2017

A Recipe for Happy Memories

     Have you ever smelled a particular scent, heard a particular song or tasted a particular food and, as a result, a flood of memories fills your head and heart? So it is at this time of year when I smell the scent of evergreens and cinnamon sticks, sing Christmas carols, hear church bells on a winter night and taste Christmas cookies, candies and treats. 
     So it is, also, when I pull out my late mom's recipe box filled with cookie recipes from Christmases of days gone by. The memories hidden inside that unassuming, yet precious box envelop me like a warm comforter.
     As I reminisced over Mom's recipe box this year, I found myself carefully lifting out recipe cards that are faded and stained from years of use. I read recipes for Aunt Mae's sugar cookies, our good friend Betty's biscotti, Aunt Alice's date macaroons, our dear friend Barb's seven-layer cookies, Grandma Carrie's fruit cookies, Aunt Ellie's sugar cookies and Mom's dream bars. Each recipe was written carefully in the baker's penmanship on a plain, lined 3" x 5" index card. 
     I got swept away just thinking of these special women in my life.
     Soon, my memories took me back to Christmas days of my childhood, when my parents and I would drive the three hours across the state to Grandma and Grandpa's home. We'd enter their home through the kitchen where I'd immediately spy a huge stack of large coffee cans in the corner. Each can would be filled with a different variety of Christmas cookie. They might be peanut crunches, gum drop cookies, lemon snowballs, pinwheel cookies or bourbon balls. They would all be delicious because Grandma was a wonderful baker, but my favorites were always the Russian tea cakes -- a shortbread-type of cookie made primarily of butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, flour, salt and chopped nuts, rolled into balls or crescents and then smothered, while still warm, in another round of powdered sugar.
     If I was a lucky girl, I'd receive new pajamas for Christmas from Grandpa and Grandma. If I was a really lucky girl, I'd get a small container of my very own Russian tea cakes, too.
     I'm admittedly not the baker I once was. We rarely eat very much refined sugar anymore. But I can't part with that recipe box. It sits idle in the kitchen drawer for most of the year, but when December rolls around, I feel urged to look inside at its precious contents, holding each recipe card, studying the ingredients and directions through faded handwriting and cooking stains, and thinking back to Christmases past when coffee cans of cookies was one of the most spectacular holiday sights for a little girl.

Note: Check back here on January 1, 2018 when something new for the new year will be unveiled at "Time to Be"!

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