There is a space in our house that we call the smelly spot. Maybe you have one too. For us, the second floor is open to the first floor of the house. All of the kitchen smells get trapped up in that second floor landing with nowhere else to go. It just so happens that landing opens up to the kids’ bedroom doorways. I swear they float along the waffs, following them down the stairs until they end up peering into the oven or bowl where I am working to find the source.
A constant during our holiday season is cookie baking. I cannot emphasize how much learning comes from the experience of baking and cooking. Just to name a few, there are motor skills being developed through scooping, pouring, leveling and stirring; sensorial experiences of smell, taste, and tactile; math is counting, measuring, and converting; science explored through how ingredients interact and change; emotional wellness is built through connection with others and confidence in the process to final product; art and creativity expressed during decorating, plating, and presenting a beautiful end product.
My husband has the most cherished relationship with his late grandmother. Gram didn’t make it to our wedding day in person but she made sure to stick around long enough to know that Dan and I had found each other. She made ginger cookies every year and it is one of those reminders of how she made everyone feel; her love and her kindness. It’s not just another cookie. Thank goodness I had the chance to be in her presence. I don’t even try to make the same ginger cookies she did. The taste of nostalgia is untouchable. Although mine are also ginger cookies, they are soft and chewy while hers were crispy crunchy.
Gram is with us as we bake together. We use a little clear glass pyrex dish to roll the sugar onto the cookie dough ball before lining them up on the baking sheet. It was hers… her hands touched them as she made snacks, meals, and treats for any and all who surrounded her table. They were a staple in her kitchen and now they are in ours. I think of her every time I touch them. It made me start thinking about the other tools of the kitchen we use and what stories they tell if we slow down enough to listen. The mixer was a wedding gift that a number of friends went in on together. The baking sheet is from my college days living in a townhome with one of my greatest friends making many a baked gouda. These stories all come together with me and the kids to make these ginger cookies. I encourage you to take a recipe and as you bake, think about the items you use, the stories they tell, where have they been and how did they get here. Share it with those you are baking them with, eating them with, and send them to. Start baking with a story! Here is one of our favorites.
Here are a few other cookie recipes that are requests each and every year.
Don’t forget to check out local bakers too. Many local bakeries have cookie trays and cookie decorating kits. If you are local, check out Scratch Bakery.
Close your eyes and listen to the story your kitchen tells.