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It's okay to change things. Really.

Yesterday, I decided to bake Halloween cookies for my grandkids, since I have some Halloween cookie cutters (with which I made cookies for my own kids a couple weeks ago). After I was done rolling out the Halloween cookies from the first rounds of dough, I re-rolled the scraps and made these autumn cookies for my sweetheart and me. And they are spectacularly delicious: crispy but not hard, full of buttery goodness, and with the crackle of baked sugars on top.

This post is not, however, designed to brag about my cookies, good as they may be. It's about the choice of recipe. Or about something more than that, really. Allow me to explain.

When I was a kid, my mother made cut-out cookies using the same recipe her mother used. I know for a fact that my Aunt Janet uses the same one, for cookies known as Sandtarts, which are basically a form of shortbread cookie; I'm not sure if Aunt Martha uses that particular recipe or not. But I digress.

When I got older, I dutifully copied out the recipe for Sandtarts onto a 3x5 card, which I stuck into my recipe box. As you can see, it's gotten a lot of use over the years. But often times, I found I wasn't thrilled to make Sandtarts. I found them difficult to roll out, and while good, they weren't as flavorful as some other cookies. I also found that I considered it a chore to make them every year near the Christmas holidays, and never made them any other time, despite having cookie cutters for other holidays. (Which accidentally all got donated to Goodwill during the move, along with some other kitchen things. They are the one thing I wish most that I had back.)

So when I made the batch for my kids, I used a recipe that my cousin Martha posted on her blog, entitled The Best Old Fashioned Frosted Sugar Cookies. I had made them before, and they are good. Very like the frosted cookies you can sometimes buy in the store, which stay a bit cake-y, which my kids happen to love. When I sent them to the kids, I frosted some and put sugar on others.

I didn't quite feel like making those again yesterday, wanting something crisper. I pulled out the Sandtart recipe and wasn't feeling it. Then I took out a bunch of cookbooks, and settled on the recipe for Hanukkah Butter Cookies from The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene, after comparing ingredients and ratios and such. The recipe calls for more butter and less flour than the Sandtarts, less salt, and the addition of vanilla, with a lower cooking temperature. The dough was delicious on its own (yes, I eat raw cookie dough, because YUM!), they rolled out easily, and the cookies are spectacularly good. I would readily make them again, pretty much any time.

It occurred to me that the lesson here is that you don't have to hold onto the stuff from your childhood that don't suit you, or that you dislike, or have outgrown. That's not limited to cookie recipes, either. I grew up moving around a lot for various reasons, all of which was beyond my control. I made sure that my kids didn't have that same history, and though they moved once that they can (barely) remember, they were pretty much in Cherry Hill, NJ, for their entire childhood and adolescence.

I grew up with a mother with an extremely volatile temper, not that you'd know it if you met her now. In fact, you'd think I was making it up, and when I was in my thirties, even I started to wonder if I was making it up until she flew off the handle one night at the dog, for no real reason, and it was just as awful as I remembered. (Plus at least one of my aunts corroborated that her kids - my cousins - used to worry about my brother and I because my mom had a hairtrigger, loud temper, so I feel certain it was so.) As an adult, looking at her situation from here, I suppose it was because we were poor, and stretched thin, and she had been forced to go back to work to help put my father through school, when she would have preferred to stay home and have another baby, to say nothing of her long-standing wish that she could have gone to college, etc. There wasn't enough money, and she was continually robbing Peter to pay Paul, and hey, she was probably a stressed-out wreck. Her crazy temper stuff calmed down once my father was out of seminary and working full-time as a minister, so that certainly fits. Only as a kid, you don't know any of that. You just know that you'd better watch it, or she's going to explode.

The point being that I vowed not to be that way when I grew up and had kids, and I (mostly) managed it. Not that I never lost my temper, but I (almost, maybe? because it might have happened once or twice?) never lost it in a shrieking, swearing, scary way.

So again I say: Just because you grew up with it, doesn't mean you have to keep it. Whatever "it" is.

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 3rd, 2014 04:18 pm (UTC)
You are likely correct, although I hadn't been thinking about actual things so much as metaphorical things, or whatever the proper term is for how you feel under certain situations, or whether you emulate your parents' behavior or choose a different path. Yet it DOES apply to all the "stuff" you've collected along the way, too!
Nov. 1st, 2014 12:34 am (UTC)
I agree with Jenn.

This reminds me of one of my least favourite clichés, "The apple doesn't fall very far away from the tree." I think the apple can and does fall far away if it wants to. You are not doomed to repeat the past.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 3rd, 2014 04:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Melodye. It felt a bit risky, posting this, even though it's all true. Must be how you feel all the time when working on your Witness memoir. Hugs. (P.S. - Perfect icon for this!)
Nov. 3rd, 2014 04:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Barb. And thanks for "getting" me. So appreciated. Hugs.
Nov. 2nd, 2014 10:20 pm (UTC)
Great post. I love the idea, although I admit, I usually come to re-recognition of it on the big things, those traditions I've never been comfortable with or the things I have to remember once again in which I'm just not like others in my family, etc, etc. I like that it came to you from a smaller thing, a choice over a recipe preference. I need to remember it this way, too.
Nov. 3rd, 2014 04:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Becky. And yeah, sometimes it comes from the "bigger" things, but for some reason, I made the connection over the cookies!
Nov. 3rd, 2014 02:29 am (UTC)
Can we have the recipe?
Nov. 3rd, 2014 04:25 pm (UTC)
Patty: Sure thing. Here it is:

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks) (no substitutes, use real butter)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour

Multicolored sprinkles

In large mixer bowl, use electric mixer to cream the butter with the sugar until light. Beat in the eggs, then the vanilla extract, baking powder, and salt. Finally, beat in the flour, adding 1 cup at a time and beating until it is mixed well. Divide dough into two, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Use the wrap to press each piece of sticky dough into a flat, round disk. Wrap the dough well, and chill for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and coat with flour. Roll out on a floured surface with rolling pin to about 1/8 of an inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to press out shapes in the dough. Bake the cookies at 375 degrees for about 7 to 10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the dough). Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then use spatula to transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

I piled the scraps together, then refrigerated them again and rolled them out for another batch of cookies, and they were still very good (and not tough).
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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