I’ll rewrite the recipe because the original recipe sheet is so tattered from use and time.
Ingredients: 2 ¼ cups flour, 1 teaspoon (baking) soda 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup butter, ¾ cup sugar, ¾ cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 eggs, 1 package chips, 1 cup nuts
Combine flour, (baking) soda + salt. Combine butter, sugar + vanilla (beat until creamy). Add eggs. Add flour. Add chips + nuts. Bake 375° 9-11 minutes.
The recipe above is for the Informant’s homemade chocolate chip cookie recipe. I asked it there were any special instructions left out of the recipe card and she stressed the importance of various ingredients and methods. Real butter should always be used, never margarine. The butter should be at room temperature to make the mixing process easier. It has to be light brown sugar, not dark brown sugar to get the flavors right. She says the most important mistake people would often make is to not pack the sugar down into the measuring cup. It is a dense ¾ cup.
Typically, it is the women in the family that bake. The men always make things to crispy, according to the Informant. The name on the top of the recipe is a bit of a confusing story. They were always “Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies,” but I was shocked to find out the recipe written above is from Toll House. When I asked, the Informant about this, she told me that she doesn’t really follow the recipe anymore, so the cookies are a little bit different every time. Baking cookies like riding a bike for her at this point. This prompted another question: then how she’s sure she has the right amount of any of the ingredients. She responded she just uses, “enough.”
*Collector Note: The Czech Republic, previously known as Czechoslovakia, which was a part of the Kingdom of Bohemia before that, was primarily a Catholic nation, and as of such the majority population would not eat meat on Fridays in keeping with their religious beliefs.
Informant: “Around Christmas time, people in the Czech Republic had a couple of special meals that they would prepare. One that I can think of were dumplings with different fruits inside of them that were usually served on meatless Fridays for supper. These dumplings were a big thing in Central European culture. They were normally served with cottage cheese and melted butter. They were sweet, but they were often served as main dishes like crepes. My grandmother made them a lot, and they were typically easy to make. They were just made out of Flour, water, and fruit. Otherwise, around Christmas, Czech people were big on fancy cookies and deserts. My grandmother and aunt used to make a couple dozen kinds of cookies for Christmas. One of the main ones were Kolacky, which were round pastries made with cream cheese, butter, flour, and fruit fillings like prunes or apricot. Sometimes we would make them with poppyseed. Other cookies we made were Angel Wings, which were sort of a combination of more traditional Czech cookies and other [Central European] culture. Vanilla or Walnut crescents were a big special one. We would make gingerbread cookies like gingersnaps. There was one type of Christmas Bread called Vanocka, which was a sweet bread formed like a big braid, which would have dried fruit, raisins, and orange slices inside of it. They usually had almonds in it as well. Czechs were always really great bakers”
The informant is a 77 year old retired anthropologist living in Portland Oregon. Her grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Kingdom of Bohemia (in the modern day Czech Republic) in the 1890’s to escape the economic turmoil within the country in that time period. She was born and grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and studied anthropology at Stanford University, during which time she became interested in learning more about the traditions of her heritage. She has on several occasions traveled to the Czech republic to visit relatives there.
Collector Analysis: This is a pretty straightforward interpretation of a widely spread tradition of making special foods and desserts for the Christmas Season. As an interesting side note, one of the conditions that the informant had for sharing this story was that the collector could not post the actual recipes for any of the cookies beyond simply a list of the general ingredients, as the recipes are apparently a family secret. All of the cookies sampled by the collector were, in the collector’s opinion, delicious.
Kolachy, a traditional Czech Christmas cookie
Informant: “In our family, we always used to set out cookies and milk for Santa, and the idea was that Santa would come down the chimney and set up presents, and then he would take a bite out of the cookies and leave. Of course, it was always just the parents taking a bite out of the cookies to make it look like Santa was there, but my kids always thought it was just the coolest thing. I remember that my family did this when I was a kid, and [my husband’s] family did the same thing as well, so we decided to to it for our kids as well to sort of keep the tradition going.”
Collector: Was the type of cookie important?
Informant: “Not really. Mostly we would put out sugar cookies, but they didn’t have to be a specific type. Although we would put out soy milk instead, but we told the kids that Santa didn’t mind”
Informant is a middle aged mother of three who lives in the suburbs in the Midwestern United States. She identifies as of “American” heritage, which she bases on her admission that she never particularly looked into her family’s European heritage.
Collector Analysis: This is an interesting variation on an already well known folklore piece involving putting out food for Santa Claus on Christmas. This informant’s immediate family are all vegans, and as of such don’t consume any animal products including milk. It is interesting to see how this particular tradition adapts to fit the family that performs it, in this case, the replacement of normal milk with soy milk. This shows the adaptability of this particular folk tradition.
The informant related a holiday tradition.
Around Christmas time, the informant would make a family cookie recipe (itself not folklore since it has been written down for many years). However, the tradition of making the cookies is folklore. One year, she was inspired by watching the annual broadcast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to make the cookies and liked the festive atmosphere that created. Thereafter, the making of the cookies was determined by the TV guide since it became traditional to make the “snowball cookies” only when Rudolph was on the TV. Eventually she purchased a VCR and was able to make the cookies on her own time. She still only makes them to Rudolph though, and only in the holiday. She has passed the tradition on to her husband and sun as well. She thereby contributed to the evolution of the tradition of baking cookies by adding another element to the ritual.