I haven't baked any cookies for the last two days, but I do have a big batch of four different kinds of cookies sitting in the freezer, and I delivered a plate of them (anonymously) to a friend. I don't know if she's found them....or if she realized they were from me.
One batch of cookies that I made was thumbprint cookies, little balls of butter dough rolled in egg white and then chopped walnuts, then an indent made in the center which is filled with jam before baking the cookies (I used raspberry jam and apricot jam). I never make those cookies without thinking of the cookies that my mother made. I don't know how old I was, but I had never seen cookies so fancy until she made thumbprint cookies.
It still disappoints me that she threw out her old cookbook several years ago, without asking me if I wanted it, because it had all those special recipes that I remember so fondly in it. It was like throwing away a piece of my childhood. It's one way that we are different. I have a real reverence for those memories and she can't understand that. Things have no sentimental meaning for her. (I couldn't believe it today when she looked around her apartment and said "Oh, Bev, I have so much crap here." I thought we were finally past all of that "so much crap" business!)
But my special memories of my childhood, for the most part, are all connected with food. My very favorite memory of my mother, to this day, is thinking of her sitting at the kitchen table, a big bowl in her lap, peeling apples for apple pie. She could peel an apple with a sharp knife in one strip and when the apples were peeled and sliced, she would sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon and let me sneak pieces of them to eat as a snack.
When she made her pie dough, there was always enough dough left over for her to roll out and make a little sugar pie for Karen and me. I'm not sure how she did that, since I'm pretty sure that pie dough recipes are pretty much the same and I never have leftover dough.
The best days were when she was making a chocolate cream roll, which I have not had since I was a child. A thin chocolate sponge cake rolled up with a real whipped cream filling and then frosted with a bittersweet chocolate frosting. When the cake was baked, it was turned out onto a towel that was dusted with powdered sugar and then the crisp edges were cut off and saved as a treat for Karen and me. Then the cake was rolled up tight in the towel and left to cool. When it was cooled, it was spread thickly with the whipped cream, rerolled (without the towel, of course) and then frosted. How how I loved that chocolate cream roll. I don't think I've ever tried making it.
My memory was that she always made cookies at Christmas time, to have whenever people came to visit. I remember when she came home from a party she had attended and was all excited about a recipe she had obtained for "goodness sake cookies." She said they got their name because when people bit into them, they invariably siad "Oh...goodness sake!" because they were so light and tasted so good.
I have since learned that "Goodness sake cookies" are essentially Mexican Wedding cakes, a butter dough mixed with chopped pecans and rolled into balls to bake. When they are baked, you take the still-warm cookies and roll them in powdered sugar and then let them cool. Oh goodness sake!
These are cookies I make frequently and are cookies that I still have to make this year because it's not Christmas, to me, without goodness sake cookies.
Her chocolate chip cookies had a flavor that only rarely have I been able to duplicate and I can't quite put my finger on what that "special something" is that gives it its flavor.
I brought her an assortment of the cookies I had baked so far a couple of days ago. Somehow I knew she would never eat them, and I was right. They are still sitting on her kitchen sink, getting stale. She has lost her taste for most things like cookies, though she can't live without her daily ice cream cone. But it was important to me to share them with her, whether she ate them or not.
So much of what I cook is reminiscent of what I loved of my mother's cooking. Sadly, she did not pass along her secrets to me, as cooking was something she did by herself without showing me how to do things. But when I got out on my own, I managed to teach myself to be a fair-to-middlin' cook and my annual Christmas cookie bake is just a way that I remember my mother fondly and the years when the house smelled like a cookie factory when I came home from school at Christmas time.
I visited my mother today and it was another one of "those" days where we talked about her age and her death and I couldn't get her interested in any other topic. When I left the apartment and went out into the lobby, a gentleman was there setting up for a puppet show and the chairs were nearly filled with other residents. I stood there and thought for a long time about going back and inviting her to come up and watch the show with me, but then realized that she would probably just say that she didn't want to and, sadly, I left Atria and came on home.