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December is the time for cookies

Karen Wils photo Sweet and freshly-decorated gingerbread cookies.

ESCANABA — Little gingerbread men and women dance around the kitchen table.

Chocolate snowflake and chocolate chip cookies dot the cupboard tops, while oatmeal and peanut butter cookies fill up the cookie jars.

Spritz cookies and sugar cookies, with all their tender butteriness, are resting so neatly between sheets of waxed paper.

December is cookie month!

Christmas cookies tantalize the taste buds and melt into sweet memories.

Chances are, you remember cutting out Christmas cookies with your mother or grandmother. You could probably list your family’s favorite requests for Christmas cookies. Traditional treats like “Russian tea cakes,” Swedish rosette cookies, pecan tarts or bear claw cookies are once-a-year delicacies.

Christmas cookies are a combination of great taste, time and treasure. Do you remember eating that beautifully frosted Santa-shaped cookie at your grandma’s house on Christmas Eve, so many years ago?

Smells and flavors can trigger memories. Enjoying an old-fashioned raisin oatmeal cookie can take you back to the 1940s or the years on the farm or the years in your little apartment.

Reminiscing through cookie dough can be great fun.

I grew up with a mom who loved to bake and cook. With many hungry mouths around, her talents were never wasted.

In our old house, on snowy December nights, it felt good to have the oven on. The smell of sweet cookies baking in the kitchen was a wonderful thing. My mom and her sisters were there working like a team, loading cookie sheets, checking the oven and emptying cookie sheets. Everything was up high, so as a little kid, I couldn’t see much of the process. I do remember that I always got a “tester” cookie hot from the pan. It was one that got a little too brown or spread a little too much.

When I got older, Christmas cookie making became a family sport. My mom made lots of kinds of cookies back then. She even sold a few of her decorated sugar cookies and it seemed she always needed cookies for exchanges or gifts.

I remember our kitchen table stacked with rows of cut-out angels, reindeer, camels, bells, stars and snowmen cookies. Mom’s old mixer purred and she’d come out of the pantry with bowls of green, red, white, blue and brown frosting for us to start decorating.

I recall her warning to my teenage brothers. “No brown snowmen now,” Mom would say and we would begin.

It took most of the afternoon and candy sprinkles, chocolate jimmies and colored sugar went everywhere. In the end we had dozens of pretty, perfectly frosted cookies and a few dudes to be eaten.

In more recent years, I would go over to my Aunt Sandy’s house for a spritz cookie-making bee. Sandy is the queen of the butter cookie press and as fast as she could turn them out, my cousins and I would decorate them. Tiny little eyes on tiny little camels or candy ornaments on an inch-by-an-inch-sized Christmas tree cookie kept our young fingers busy.

When my own kids were small, they liked the little gingerbread boys and girls the best, especially if I put a letter (ABCs) on each cookie.

It is time to stock up on flour, and brown sugar, chocolate and nuts. Let the north wind blow, but keep the kitchen aglow with the warmth from the oven.

Get out one of Mom’s old favorite cookbooks and bake up some sweet memories. Baking cookies is more fun if you have some helpers, and that makes the cleaning up goes a lot faster too.

Pass me a cookie and a glass of milk, please.

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Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.

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