Presents from the Past
Julie A. Wilmot
I am one of those people who LOVES Christmas. I always have. I was one of those annoying children who woke up their entire household at two in the morning to announce that Santa had come. Adulthood hasn’t cured me. I’ve been known to remark on a tree’s suitability for Christmas months before December, although I don’t actually get one and put it in the house until the day after Thanksgiving. The bigger the tree, the better. Thank God for cathedral ceilings and my husband’s indulgence of my Christmas tree love affair.
Christmas time, to me, is simply the best time of year. I love the tree, the lights, and the atmosphere. And, of course, there are presents. I’d love Christmas just as much without them, but presents never hurt anyone. The best presents I’ve ever received weren’t expensive. They were homemade, with a healthy dose of sentimentality, and they came from the past. Last year, my grandmother gave me a recipe book full of old family recipes. The year before, my mother did something similar.
I come from a very long line of cooks. Not chefs, but home cooks. Many of the women in my family were and are excellent bakers. I had a great-grandfather I never knew who passed his ice cream recipe to my grandfather, who makes it every year at Christmas. Coupled with my grandmother’s hot fudge, it’s positively sinful. It’s a good thing that calories don’t count on Christmas.
My maternal great-grandmother was an amazing cook. She passed away in 2006, but I was lucky enough to have her in my life for my first twenty years. Her husband, my great-grandfather, opened an automobile garage in 1937. It’s still operating with their children as owners. My great-grandmother kept books and paid bills, but she also provided a warmth that I have never seen replicated anywhere else.
Having a rough day? Car broke down? Stop in and see Mona. She’ll have coffee, and doughnuts, or lemon bars, or peanut butter cookies ready. She always did.
As a child, I knew as soon as I got home from school that I’d be greeted with a cookie and a smile. One of my very favorite cookies was her Ginger Cream. I got out the recipe book my grandmother gave me and baked some last night, and I told my husband they were as good as I remembered them being. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Mona Ernestine (Bennett) Eames’ Ginger Cream Cookies
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup Crisco
1 large egg
½ cup molasses
½ cup water
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cream sugar and shortening; add egg, molasses, and water. Mix until uniform. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate at least one hour. Drop by tablespoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cookies will be soft-set. Let cool. Top with frosting (recipe below) or leave plain.
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
4 Tblsp half and half or heavy cream
3 Tblsp Crisco
Mix all ingredients until smooth and spreadable. Top cookies and enjoy! (If you love ginger, try topping the frosted cookies with crushed crystallized ginger for a little added zing.)