The Cookie Bakers
My Grandmother Mildred and her sisters, Clara, Edith, Jessie, and Alice were all wonderful cooks. Baking though, was where they excelled. Born and raised on a farm in Nebraska, the girls worked in the house with my Great Grandmother Gertie; and my Uncles Brub and Babe worked the farm with my Great Grandfather Simon.
When I was a little girl, I remember hearing the Aunts praise one another’s cooking and baking skills and they all seemed to have specialties. I suspect there was sisterly competition between them; but they kept it friendly and sweet.
All of the family except my Aunt Sis (Clara) moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and I’m sure the kids pined for her when they left her in Nebraska. I like to imagine that they continued to trade cooking and baking secrets across the miles as a way to keep up with one another. Some of the cards that I’ve found cite “Mom’s Oatmeal Ice Box Cookies,” or “Mil’s Cheese Ball,” or “Jessie’s Sour Cream Fudge.” The recipes are tangible evidence of their existence and expertise. I don’t know how many generations of Michaelson women have added to the collection but some of the recipes seem as though they might be quite old.
By the time I came along, Aunt Dee Dee was baking most of the cookies herself for Christmas with the family. It was quite a coup to be gifted one of those boxes; and everyone wanted their own! My family was lucky to receive cookie boxes for several years before she became too elderly to bake. Cream Cheese Cookies, Haystacks, Dreambars, Divinity Fudge. Sigh.
This last January, my Aunt Dee Dee celebrated her 98th birthday in the care facility where she lives. She is the last living child of Simon and Gertie and we thought she was the last of the Michaelson Cookie Bakers. It has been years since Aunt Dee Dee was able to bake or even talk about her cookies. At her birthday party, I was given her card file stuffed with all the dishes and desserts the sisters had prepared for the family since they were old enough to cook.
As soon as I saw the recipes, I knew they needed to be preserved and shared with family and friends. I’m not much of a baker myself but my daughter bakes and other family members do too! I’m excited to see who the new Cookie Bakers will be and what they will add to our family tradition.
My sister Linda and I made a date with our cousin Sue (Aunt Jessie’s daughter) and her kids. We got together for lunch and a visit with plans to swap photos and recipes. Sue surprised us by making Angel Ball cookies. Drowning in powdered sugar, they were delicious and full of something much more than just sweet taste.
I had never before associated emotions with cookies. But one bite and Linda and I both got a little teary eyed. Neither of us expected to have these cookies again. The experience was astonishing to us both and how strangely important it suddenly seemed. We understood it wasn’t really about the cookies. It was about reconnecting with family and revisiting memories of our wonderful Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents.
This couldn’t be complete without my acknowledging the love and gratitude I feel for these women. And it wouldn’t be complete without a recipe.
Rich Butter Cookies – Preheat Oven to 350.
2 cups Butter, 3/4 cup Sugar, 1 Egg, 1/4 teaspoon Almond Extract, 3 cups of Flour, 1/4 teaspoon Salt.
Cream Butter, Sugar, and add Egg and Almond Extract.
Add Flour and Salt.
Mix until Soft Dough is formed.
Roll Dough quite thin and cut with cookie cutters.
Bake on Ungreased Cookies Sheets for 8 minutes.
AmyLee 02 18 2016