Each year brings a different dynamic to the baking process. The only constant though 22+ years of doing this is my husband, Joe. He is a marvelous chef. Simply mah-velous, dahlink! I think that comes from his chemistry background - got his masters degree in Inorganic Chemistry back in '89. So, when it comes to saucing and spicing and creating amazing meals, there is no one I know who does it better. I am the sous chef.... I chop up little things and I do the dishes. This is a mighty big job because he insists on using every pot, pan, spoon, spoonula, whisk, mixing bowl, whatever (!) he can find in the kitchen. It's my job and I like it.
Baking, however, is a different story. Baking is, in itself, a science. There is no playing around. There is no experimenting. Eggs. Butter. Sugar. Flour. Baking soda. No, baking powder is not a good substitute. Those are the basics. And the proportions matter. If you are out of something, you can't just look around and grab something else. It just won't work. I absolutely ADORE following a recipe. Joe absolutely EXCELS when he is out of something and has to whip up a cream sauce using whatever he finds. It always comes out great. Only real problem with that is we can never duplicate his efforts! Experimentation in cookie world simply means we were looking in the cookbooks and found one we hadn't tried before. But we followed the directions precisely!
The making cookies is something he instigates. He is always the one who announces to the family: "We are making cookies this weekend. We will have family fun time. Or else." Cookies galore flow forth from the oven. But there are always little nuances and the occaisional casualty along the way.
We have four daughters and each one likes to help with one type of cookie or another. Or not help at all. Over the years, my help hasn't changed much - I either help or I don't. Some years, depression gets to me and I just don't want to deal with the hassle. Other years, I'm all about the cookies. It's not a big deal. And really, this has turned into father-daughter time lately and I'm cool with that. They seem to work in shifts. Joe will say "let's do this kind next" and, like a batter stepping up to the plate, the appropriate kid will head for the kitchen.
Lafawnduh is 18 and home from college on Christmas Break. She is #3 in birth order, but the first one to move out and into a dorm for college. She is also the most like her dad. Listening to them bickering in the kitchen is a hoot. She likes things her way - he likes them his way. She did a lot of "giving in" yesterday, but I know that today she is doing the cut cookies and icing them - all alone with no one to tell her that she's doing them wrong.
Miss Sparklezz (22) and Jewbie (20) are too busy for baking. Oh, they'll walk through the kitchen, get swatted with a dish towel, and steal a few "samples" along the way, but that's part of the game. They just want to wait for the decorating part, so they better keep an eye on Lafawnduh today.
The Cheese is 16 and likes the peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses in the middle. She is also hilarious. She is the funniest kid I know, but not in a "tell me a joke" way, in a sarcastic, one-liner way that I know will get her into trouble in some circles, but I just love it. There are many times when I am laughing out loud while thinking "as her mom, I shouldn't be laughing at this but damn this kid is funny!"
Saturday was all about nut horns... time consuming little buggers... plus, we had to get organized for the Sunday Marathon. Sunday we did Christmas Pretzels, Russian Tea Cakes, and Mexican Hats. Cut cookies are today. Next weekend will be Buckeyes... and who knows what other great things we'll decide to try. I already learned something new from Cheese this year....
Me: Cheese, can you help me unwrap kisses for the Mexican Hats?
Cheese: Mom, you can't call them that anymore.
Me: What? Why not?
Cheese: Because it's politically incorrect and could be offensive to Mexicans. You have to call them peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses in them.
Me. Well, crap. What about Russion Tea Cakes? Is there a new name for them?
Cheese: Yep. Sawdust.
.... yeah, that's my kid.