Occupation: executive assistant
Residence: Santa Monica, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/15/15
Primary Language: English
1 cup shortening Crisco
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
4 ½ cups sifted measured flour (sift flour fluffy)
- Cream shortening, sugar, egg, salt, vanilla,, soda stir in together
- Add flour ⅓ at a time. Shape dough in oval rod, wrap up in put in plastic bag.
- Chill 2 hrs in refrig. at least.
- preheat to 350
- Let sit ½ hr
- Rolling pin, flour pin+counter lightly, cut ¼ of dough
- Roll to ¼ to ⅜ thick
- Cut w/ cookie cutter
- Bake 12-15 min. —not brown
2 cups shifted confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup soft butter or 3 tablespoons hot whipping cream
Add and beat until smooth:
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 to 4 tablespoons milk, dry sherry, rum, or coffee
If the icing is too thin, add more:
If too thick, add:
A little cream
The informant had gotten the recipe for the cookies from her mother-in-law, who had gotten the recipe from her mother. The mother-in-law is from Ohio, and her mother was from Italy and came to America a few years after her marriage. There have been a few changes to the recipe over the years, as ingredients become more available—hence the option of milk, coffee, dry sherry, or rum to the icing.
The mother-in-law started the tradition of having these cookies at Christmas. The cookies are only made during the Christmas season every year, usually a few days before the holiday. There is one designated day of cookie making, where the cookies made that day are expected to last until the end of the holiday season and the visiting of all relatives. Depending on how many relatives are expected, and especially how many children are around, more or less batches are made on this one day. Because of the multiple batches, the icing of the cookies can be moved to the morning of the next day, though this often causes more stress.
In recent years, about 50 cookies are made. There are 3 different cookie shapes: a Christmas tree, which has green icing with little green sparkly sprinkles; a yellow star with multi-color non-parreil sprinkles; and a Santa Claus head, with black-frosted eyes, a red-frosted hat, and white-frosted beard with coconut shavings. Each relative tends to have his or her favorite cookie, with the Santa Claus being the least popular, though the most revered as it is the most aesthetically pleasing.
There are many stories told about the cookies from the time when the informant’s husband was a child with 2 brothers and a sister. One of the popular stories is how when the cookies would first be made available to the children, each sibling would steal 5 or 6 and hide them under their respective beds, with no covering. Jokes are made on finding icing stains on the underside of the mattress years later. Another is when the mother-in-law was a girl and would be sure to help make the cookies, so she could steal the cookies of the cooling rack before her mother could notice and her sister could get them.
This previous year, the informant was not going to go to her in-laws until later in January, but felt her husband and daughter would miss the cookies at Christmas, as they are one of the main aspects of her family’s Christmas celebration, so she made them with her daughter on Christmas day. She did not have the same cookie cutters, so she used a dolphin cutter with blue icing with a black-frosted dot for an eye.
When asked why these cookies were so important, she said that it is one of their family’s Christmas traditions. In order for it to feel like Christmas, there should be some kind of a tree (she’s had a Charlie Brown-esque Christmas tree the past few years), some present giving, a good meal…and the cookies when she goes and visits her husband’s family. Her mother-in-law puts in a lot of effort for those cookies—a whole day’s work—and they have been around for years. The informant does not even like the cookies very much, “too sweet for my salty taste buds,” but that does not lessen their meaning.
The cookies will continue to be served by all of the mother-in-law every Christmas, and the tradition, or at the very least the recipe, will remain a part of her children and her grandchildren’s lives, and fond memories of Christmases at her house.