Every Christmas, I bake butter cookies. Not just a few dozen, but batches and batches and batches of them. Actually, I bake 50 dozen. I do this with no particular joy, nor just because I have loving childhood memories of eating them by the fistful straight out of the Charlie Chips cans with my sisters.
So why then do I spend an entire, miserable weekend every December baking? Because I enjoy creaming pounds of hard, greasy, sweet butter and sugar with dozens of painstakingly separated egg yolks? Because I experience a moment of Zen-like oneness while hand-mixing pounds of flour and bottles of almond extract into goopy, wet, yellow batter? Because I feel a surge of warm pride while pressing dozens upon dozens of delicate snow flakes, topping each with a bright red, finger staining Maraschino cherry?
No! I bake them every Christmas, and I mean every Christmas, because my grandmother baked them, and my mother baked them and because I just, well, have to bake them! It’s as if I’ve acquired a hereditary, seasonal mandate, or have some crazy genetic predisposition that, upon hearing the first tinny bells of the season, compels me to ransack the kitchen hunting down the old, family butter cookie recipe.
Though this inherited urge to bake each Christmas is a labor-intensive chore that leaves me cranky, it is also a labor of love. My family, friends and neighbors have come to expect their carefully packed tins of butter cookies delivered by a rather harried me. These cookies have become a part of their holiday memories; a part of their holiday DNA.
And so, before I change my mind, I’m back to the kitchen! Happy Holidays.