Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Cookie for Your Memories

by Olivia Greyson, from THE COOKIE CUTTER SHOP MYSTERIES, by Virginia Lowell.

Have you ever noticed that certain foods bring back memories of certain people? Especially during the Holidays… Although I have to admit the connection also works the other way around: remembering a person can make me hungry for a particular food. With me, it’s cookies. So here I am at two a.m., in my own little kitchen, baking white-chocolate chip cookies for Christmas day with my family—and thinking about my dad. He adored white-chocolate chip cookies, could eat them by the handful, and he never gained an ounce. That part still rankles, I’m ashamed to admit, even though Dad died over fifteen years ago. Luckily, cookies take me to my cozy place, so mostly I’m remembering the happy times with my father.

My father was an ornithologist. Birds fascinated him to the point of obsession and beyond. He wrote bird books that read like novels. I kid you not. The birds spoke actual dialogue. When Dad wasn’t imagining the birds gossiping over a suet cake, he was chatting with them as if they were next-door neighbors. (This might explain why I talk to cookie cutters, though I try to do so only in the privacy of my own kitchen.)

One Christmas Day, when I was about ten, Dad and I watched some robins squabbling over the few remaining red berries hanging on a small tree. I announced that I did not like robins. They were, I said, crabby and selfish. Plus they didn’t have really pretty, bright colors, like cardinals and blue jays.

My dad was quiet for a while—long enough to consume three whole cookies, as I recall. “I rather like those orange bellies,” Dad said finally. I knew there was more coming, but it wasn’t until two cookies later that he added, “Honey, it isn’t easy being a robin. Imagine yourself inside their feathers. It’s winter, there isn’t much fruit to eat, and you’ll have to stay outside all night. You wouldn’t have a nice warm bed to crawl into or hot food on the table the next morning. You and your brother still quarrel over the last cookie on the plate, even after you’ve both had a full meal. Those robins only seem selfish to you, but they are actually cold and hungry. They need lots of food to help them survive the cold nights.”

I got the point, although I didn’t admit it, and I never forgot the story. Forever after, I’ve associated white-chocolate chip cookies with my father and his unique way of understanding birds… and people. And I’ll bet my new silicone-coated rolling pin that when I bring these cookies to Christmas dinner with my family, we will find ourselves telling stories about Dad.

Do you have a holiday food favorite that immediately takes you back in time to a person or place?

Season’s Readings!

To show our appreciation for our readers, we’re giving away one book a day for the whole month of December. It’s our gift to you. Every day, one lucky person will be chosen from the people who left a comment that day. You have 31 chances to win! But you have to leave comments! So come back every day and leave a comment for a new chance to win.

Today’s randomly selected winner will have the choice of a signed copy of COOKIE DOUGH OR DIE, A COOKIE BEFORE DYING, WHEN THE COOKIE CRUMBLES, or ONE DEAD COOKIE.

COOKIES AND SCREAM, the fifth book in the series, will be released July 1, 2014. Meanwhile, visit Virginia Lowell at www.virginialowell.com

62 comments:

  1. Anise Cookies --- my MIL made them at Christmas, I simply adored them and she just would not share the recipe!!! I finally found the recipe and every time I bake them I remember happy times were her! So, COOKIES is also mine! Thanks and Merry Christmas to you and your family! Lynn/MI

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    1. Anise! Yum! I'll suggest those to Maddie for the next baking frenzy. Thanks!

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  2. My mom's pizelles always made the holidays special. She would bake batches for us and for friends and family, especially at Christmas. Every time I sample a pizelle from someone's holiday cookie platter I think of my mom. She has Alzheimer's now, but we still have special moments together and now we tell her the family stories she used to tell us. Merry Christmas to you. rencw@verizon.net

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    1. Pizelles are my husband's (Virginia's) favorite! He makes many batches each Christmas, and they are wonderful. (It's the only thing he bakes.)

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  3. For me fruit cake reminds me of my father. Now, that doesn't mean my father was strange as the word sometimes means. He ran a bakery, and his recipe for fruitcake was incredible. In the last few years, I have found a bakery that also makes wonderful fruitcake. When I buy and eat it, I am reminded of Dad.

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    1. I've never understood why so many people make fun of fruitcake. I love it! Especially my brother-in-law's fruitcake. (Although I'm pretty sure he lines up his fruitcakes and empties a bottle of rum on top of them.)

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  4. Pecan Pie, it was one of my Dad's favorites. Now that he is no longer with us, we make it and remember him. Cookie Dough or Die is great! sweetcandi32010@yahoo.com

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    1. Pies makes me think of spending the Holidays with my grandparents. My grandmother made fabulous pies, and my grandfather ate a large piece every day. He lived to be 95 and never gained weight. I'm just saying...

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  5. kim j
    desserts remind me of my grandpa, they were his favorite part of the meal.

    kjohnson952@yahoo.com

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    1. Same here! He did love pies, but to be honest, he ate and enjoyed any dessert my grandmother put in front of him.

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  6. my favorite holiday memory is when my Uncle would carve the turkey & my cousin & I would pick the scrap pieces of turkey to eat off the cutting board!!!

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  7. Homemade bread. That's what my dad loved to make. I am sure he made cookies too but its the bread and rolls I remember most. They were so good and made with his love. He has been gone 44 years now but is so missed

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    1. Just the aroma of homemade bread baking brings back memories of my mother. Thank you.

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  8. Fruitcake always makes me think of my Dad because he always had to have one as soon as they were in the store.

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    1. Fruitcake also brings to mind my uncle, who always sent us some for Christmas. He died last year. I wish I could talk to him one more time.

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  9. Anything my mom cook bring back great memories of my childhood

    xzjh04@ gmail.com

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    1. With me, it was my dad. He was a "creative" cook. I'll never forget the time he made meatloaf with bananas in it--no matter how hard I try! But it did make a great story!

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  10. Turkey noodle soup. Mom made the noodles from scratch. I cheat and use frozen noodles. I have made them from scratch, but my soup was never as good as mom's anyway, so frozen works.

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    1. My dad made noodles, too! I'd forgotten about that. I remember them hanging all over everything in the kitchen. Thanks for bringing that back to me!

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  11. My grandmother always made popcorn balls and taffy for the holidays and colored them both red and green. How I miss both of them.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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    1. What fun! I'd have loved the taffy, but my parents kept telling me it would pull my teeth out.

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  12. Cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Turkey for the main meal. And lots of desserts. Now we have such a large extended family gathering on Christmas Eve that we have a large assortment of yummy desserts. My favorite though, are the oreo truffles that my sister makes. Can't wait to have a few of them later today. Merry Christmas!

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    1. Oreo truffles sound wonderful! Wish I had a memory of those!

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  13. Spritz cookies. The only time we ever had them was in December around Christmas time and they are a very favorite of mine. And then there is a very rich coffee cake that my mom would make for my birthday breakfast, my birthday is today, December 24th. Since the 24th was such a busy day, she started having a birthday breakfast party for me. It was so good!

    ElaineE246 at msn dot com

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    1. Happy Birthday!! My grandmother made a terrific coffee cake for Christmas morning. My mouth waters just thinking about it. Wish I had the recipe.

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  14. Apple Cake is a favorite which my wonderful mother, who is gone, used to make each season. For my birthday each year on the 14th she would go all out and prepare a feast. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. I've never had apple cake, but it sounds intriguing. What a wonderful memory of your mother.

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  15. Growing up, we always had duck or goose for our holiday meal. Idont care for turkey. Also we always prune kolache and potato dumplings,both of which are Czech origin. Dbahn@iw.net

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    1. Wow, I've never tasted any of those yummy sounding foods! So many flavors, so little time... Thank you!

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  16. My grandmother made Cannolis, strudel and delightful little shortbread cookies, all of which I miss badly. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. All wonderful foods! I make shortbread, and I hope my family remembers me for it... except the ones that won't come out of the shortbread pan. I hope they forget those.

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  17. Applesauce cake with sherry - it has to be made 3 days ahead.

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    1. Sounds delicious! My mom made a sherry cake that I'll never forget. She always poured extra sherry over the top and let it sink in.

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  18. Pumkin pie cooking.....the nieces making rum cake....baking cookies....bread merry Christmas celsaieh88@gmail.com

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    1. Yes! My mom made the pumpkin pie and rum cake, while my sister and I baked a zillion cookies, which we delivered to the neighbors. Wonderful memories! Thank you!

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  19. Sauerkraut reminds me of my grandfather. Every New Years Eve, we'd go over to his house and wait for the ball to drop and he always had sauerkraut made :-)

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    1. Sounds delicious! I love homemade sauerkraut. Wish I'd had a grandfather who made it!

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  20. Christmas cookies remind me of my Mom.

    littleone AT shaw DOT ca

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    1. Christmas cookies remind me of my sister, who, happily, is still alive and cooking. We went crazy at Christmas and baked up a storm. Then we shared with the neighbors.

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  21. Everyone has a favorite cokie and when I make them it always reminds me of them. The pressed sugar cookies my grandmother made, the German Lemon cookies from my great grandmother's recipe (they use hartzhorn and smell like amonia when they cook!), my great aunt's rolled sugar cookies and the oatmeal lace cookies my grandmohter used to roll into little tubes while they were hot. All of these cookies bring back great memories.

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    1. I'm jealous! What a wonderfully interesting collection of cookies to remind you of loved ones. I'm intrigued by the German Lemon cookies.
      Thank you for sharing these delicious memories!

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  22. Stuffing reminds me of holidays at my grandparents...my grandfather taking the turkey out of the oven, scooping out the steaming stuffing, and then carving the meat for dinner. I lived sitting in the kitchen watching him do all this.

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    1. To be honest, stuffing is my favorite part of the holiday meal. My mom always mixed spicy sausage in with the dressing, and I thought it was better than the turkey. That's the way I make it, too. In fact, I'd better get started on it.

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  23. My dad loved coconut custard pie and when I eat it, I think of him.(rblerner@ptd.net)

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    1. I've never tried coconut custard pie. Sounds delicious! Thank you!

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  24. Thank you so much for sharing this, I've been looking for something like this for ages online!
    Check out mine after reading this.

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  25. The smell/taste of caramel takes me back to my grandma's kitchen and making caramels/caramel corn/peanut brittle over the holidays.

    My choice would be Cookie Dough Or Die. lauraalbert@hotmail.com

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  26. Now I'm hungry for cookies!

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    1. Welcome to my world! I'm always hungry for cookies.

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  27. My Mother's fruit cakes and plum puddings take me take to my childhood. I used to love watching her mix them up. I can smell the brandy. She kept the brandy high up in the linen cupboard. She has been caught over the years standing on a chair taking a swig when she put linen away. Too funny.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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    1. She sounds like my mom. She was known to take a swig of the sherry while making a sherry cake. Same with the rum cake. But only a swig... It was cute. She got giggly very quickly because she was so tiny that it didn't take much!

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  28. My mom bakes wonderful cutout cookies called Kris Kringles at Christmastime. When I was little I used to decorate them with sprinkles and colored sugar! I hope she made some this year! I"Ll find out tomorrow!

    cozyupwithkathy @ gmail dot com

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    1. They sound wonderful? I don't suppose you mom would like a job in The Gingerbread House...?

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  29. soft spice cookies. sometimes with peel (moms version) and I have used candied ginger in them as well. I love them and mom always made them this time of year. And we usually left one for Santa. Why only one well she believed everything in moderation. after all I read somewhere recently that if Santa gets 2 cookies and milk he will consume about 7 million calories on Christmas Eve.

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    1. Now I feel guilty about all the cookies we left for Santa over the years! Although, to be honest, I suspect my dad ate most of them. I'm sure he was eating them to save Santa from heart disease. Right?

      Your cookies sounds oh so wonderful! I adore peel and candied ginger, so what's not to love?

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  30. We exchange cookies every year in our mystery book group--Ronna Lord

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  31. MY MOTHER BAKED SWEET DOUGH BISCUITS WITH THE BROWN SUGAR CARMELIZED BOTTOMS. MY MOUTH WATERS WHEN I THINK AOUT HER TERRIFIC BAKING.

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