I’m so glad I’m not a dentist. How many times does someone say, ‘Oh, Doc, it felt so good when you were drilling my teeth’? Never. But when you give someone a wonderful cookie, you put a little of yourself in, and you see someone’s face light up, that’s immediate approval. -Paula Deen
Christmas is a time tailor-made for tasty memories. From Christmas hams, to stockings full of candy, the lingering tastes of Christmases past spring to mind as soon as I see the decorations lining the shop shelves. Making and decorating Christmas cookies was a yearly rite, as sacred as the trimming of the tree. It was always a family event, even Dad decorating his own cookies. Smears of icing on fingers and mouths, we attempted to hold ourselves back from eating them as we decorated. This was the moment that we knew Christmas was almost here. It was the beginning of the “real Christmas season.” This has continued to our family, as we gather each year to decorate the snowmen, stars, and trees with brightly colored sugar, the kids’ eyes alight with eager anticipation of the sweet bounty in their hands. It is a wonderful time in our household. I don’t just decorate cookies to eat them, I use it as an excuse to spend time with my wonderful wife and kids.
As I think about the wonderful memories I have of this time of the year, my heart is burdened for the people who have lost so much in Newton during the shooting. My mind can barely contain the tragedy of children being lost, especially during this time of the year. I imagine the parents returning home to decide what to do with the presents, hiding wrapped in the closet, that will not be opened this year. I think of them looking at the cookies those dear hands decorated, not knowing that they would not be able to enjoy them. At a time when we celebrate the coming of the child of God, the people of Newton mourn the passing of their own children. It is an unimaginable tragedy made worse by the circling vultures of media, the ideologues using this to push their own agendas, and those who cannot stop their incessant droning long enough to think about what is really important in this terrible time. I don’t like to use this forum as a political or religious debate, but there is something I feel needs to be said. God was very much in that school that day, as he is every day. If God can be with Daniel in the lion’s den, the three prophets in the fiery furnace, David against Goliath, Moses and Israel, Paul in prison, and Jesus on the cross, he most assuredly can be in a public school during the horrendous murders that took place. He was present in the actions of the teachers who sacrificed themselves. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 He was present with the ones who survived. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” He will be with the parents as they attempt to come to grasp with the tragedy. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. No legislation can keep God out of schools, and to suggest that this happened because of some misunderstood legislation is insulting to God and to the people who have lost so much.
This time of year is a celebration of the coming of God to earth in human form. Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel, which means God with us. Isaiah 7:14. God gave his son for us, and we celebrate the sacrifice he made. The flowery pictures of the Nativity don’t allow us to see the truth behind the manger. God came to earth, was born in a filthy stable, and lived a tough life before ultimately dying on a cross for us. That is the hope we have. Not just at Christmas, but our entire lives. As we remember those who have lost so much, and as we form our own memories of Christmas with the families we love so dearly, we are reminded that the love we have for each other sustains us through hard times and gives us an anchor we so desperately need in this uncertain world. This may not seem related to cookies, but the simple act of decorating cookies with my family grounds me and gives me a moment to not think about the insanity of the world. My daughter’s laugh, my son’s smile, and the twinkle in my wife’s eye center me, in a world seemingly without a center. So in a way, decorating cookies is a moment of healing, a gentle push into the center of the Christmas spirit, and a touch point with my past.
This recipe is special. It is my grandmother’s soft sugar cookie recipe. This is not the recipe for crisp sugar cookies that hold their shape impeccably. They are soft, and can be cut if very cold, but a circle dropped on the sheet will produce the best soft sugar cookie this side of the North Pole. We traditionally used Buttercream to frost, but this year, I topped some with Royal icing for that shiny gloss. I think they turned out beautifully, but to be honest, the buttercream is better tasting. I haven’t included a recipe for the icing. Use your favorite buttercream or royal icing. They are also delicious unfrosted, but that kind of defeats the purpose in my mind. Merry Christmas.
Grandma Bushnell’s Soft Sugar Cookies
- 2 C Flour
- 1 C Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
- 1 Egg separated
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 C Buttermilk
- 1/2 C softened Butter (The original recipe calls for shortening, but I like butter. Either would work fine and the shortening would give a slightly softer cookie.)
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla
Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and soda. Add the dry mixture and buttermilk alternately into the butter mixture. Add vanilla.
At this point you can flatten the dough into a disk between saran wrap and chill until very cold and then roll out to cut with cutters or drop tablespoon sized cookies onto a lined baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass dipped in water or sugar. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until the edges are only slightly browned.