To learn to be a better writer, I have a book of writing prompts. I asked Colin to open it and give me a random one tonight, and he opened the page to “my favorite recipe”. So, here’s what came out of my soul this evening 🙂
My favorite recipe lives in a box on a shelf. The box is cream and brown in color, with a neat brown flower design running around its edges. It looks like it was designed in the 1970s, and it just might have been.
My mom was born in 1960, so the ’70s were the second decade of her life. Perhaps she bought her recipe box when she was 18 years old and getting married to hold the various casserole recipes she made for her husband, or to save recipes passed down from my Grandma.
The box is stuffed so full of recipes, I can barely pull one out without bringing several more with it. Each card, neatly handwritten in my mom’s lovely and effortless letters, is encased in a plastic sleeve. The sleeves stick together with age and old fingerprints with traces of tomato sauce, cream of mushroom soup, and sugar.
My favorite recipe is a well-worn card in the back of the box, in the “desserts” section. It’s there that you can find all the christmas cookie recipes my mom would make every single December, usually with a child or two at her side, begging for scraps of sweet, buttery raw dough. The one that I love the most, although simple, is her spritz cookie recipe.
Spritz cookies are made with a rather easy dough, but a more difficult process. Once mixed, mom would split the dough among three bowls. One would stay white while the others were mixed with a couple drops of red or green food coloring. Each stir of the spoon in the red and green bowls created the most beautiful swirls before distributing into solid color. I always wished we could make a couple swirled ones, but mom had to make good-looking, non-experimental cookies for the family Christmas.
After a short period of refrigeration, mom would get out her cookie press and ready it for battle by sliding a decorative plate into place and loading the first chunk of dough. She’d place the press nose-down on the cookie sheet, squat down so her face was level with the counter, and start twisting the plunger on the cookie press. Each twist pushed the dough down through the plate in the chosen design and onto the cookie sheet. Mom chose only the trees and wreaths, because she could never get that darn camel or star to come out right.
When the right amount of dough was extruded, mom was at the moment of truth: time to yank the press upward and hope to sweet baby Jesus that the dough is the exact right consistency to stick to the sheet while detaching from the press. She’d give the press a swift yank and then react accordingly. Sometimes it worked, but it often either wouldn’t come unstuck from the press or would half stick to the sheet, half stick to the press but release on the upward yank, causing a chunk of precious formed cookie to take a brief flight through the air before plopping back down, ruined.
It’s in these moments of spritz misbehavior that I got to see my mom in some of her most frustrated moods, using some of her most colorful almost-cursing sigh language.Of course, with a little more flour or refrigeration, we’d always end up with soft, butter, perfect-looking wreaths and trees.
My favorite recipe for Christmas spritz cookies was, if it came out right, my mother’s own Christmas miracle.