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Eat Your Vegetables: The beautiful tradition of holiday cookies


My mother's beautiful spritz.

My mother's beautiful spritz. by Sarah Henning

Yes, this space is called "Eat Your Vegetables" and we all know I implore y'all to do that as much as humanly possible.

But let's be real a second: The holiday season is most assuredly not about the vegetables.

If we're talking food, it's about the cookies.

Sugar cookies. Pinwheels. Spritz.

So many beautiful, sweet beauties. So, so little time.

OK, that's not true. We have a full month's run up of cookies from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day. Cookies, cookies every day.

Cookie decorating was always a huge deal in my house. My mother makes about 10 different types of cookies. Maybe more. Honestly, I've kind of lost track now that I don't get to see her make them over the course of a couple of weeks in early December. Macaroons, pecan pie bars, mint chocolate fudge and the aforementioned sugar cookies, pinwheels and spritz. There are others, to be sure, changing a bit each year, but those are the classics.

Since we've come to celebrate Christmas in Lawrence, we've come up with a new twist on the necessary cookie baking. My mom brings a sampling of the cookies she makes at home (see that pretty tin above). And then she makes and decorates sugar cookies with my son here.

The result is a family tradition that's been kept intact for 30 years.

My son's day of working the cookie line looks pretty delicious.

My son's day of working the cookie line looks pretty delicious. by Sarah Henning

I remember being in preschool, watching my mom cut and bake stars, trees, wreaths and candy canes. Then, once they were cool and we had a good chunk of time, we'd crank Mannheim Steamroller, huddle over the table, bowls of homemade icing thickly holding their appointed spoons, sprinkles at the ready and decorate until every last cookie was primped and primed into cookie stardom.

Well, my mother's sugar cookies were the stars. Mine were not.

Try as I might, I never — even as a teen or an adult — had the skill, patience and steady hand to properly decorate cookie after cookie without them turning into an accident at the Crayola factory.

My mother, on the other hand, could (and can) create endless little green sprinkle wreaths (each with their own bows), perfect red stripes to white-frosted candy canes and many other designs.

Time will tell if my son is more of a natural cookie decorator than I am. He probably will be, judging by the cookies he churned out for this Christmas (look at those pretty cookies above!).

Good thing we'll be decorating them again next year.


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