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The Secret of the Ginger Cream Cookies  

 

The recipe for Ginger Cream Cookies fell into my Mother’s hands, or should I say her recipe collection.  As a child of age 6 around Christmas time in 1952, I had my first experience making those cookies … well, helping enough so that I got the refrigerated dough stuck to my fingers, and my warm little hands were busy molding it into small balls.  You see, I had the job of official “doughballer” rolling dough into small balls then into granulated sugar.  A tough job but someone had to do it.  The smells activated the air -- ginger, cinnamon, and molasses -- and wafted from the bowl into my brain.  The only natural thing to do was to add the taste sensation.  I licked my finger.  It was love at first bite.  I licked another finger, then a third, then all the rest of them that had the wonderful sandy-colored dough on them.  I ate a whole dough ball already rolled in sugar.  Based on what I knew from church, this was God’s reward for a good deed.  That’s when the heavenly experience ended as Mother reprimanded:  “Don’t eat that raw dough; it’ll make you sick.”  I had been rebuked … heard about that at church, too.  At the moment I didn’t care; it was worth it for those few seconds of ecstasy on my tongue.  If it tastes this good raw, what will it taste like after it’s cooked? 

Ovens didn’t have glass viewing windows back then so I couldn’t see what was happening to those sugar-coated balls I made.  But I tell you, while they were cooking, those smells worked their way out anyway.  According to my Mother, I had to be very quiet and still near the oven …and definitely no peeking while they baked … otherwise the cookies might fall.  Baked goods seemed to have that problem decades ago … I wonder why they don’t seem to now?  You don’t suppose the grownups were just trying to keep us quiet and calmed down, knowing full well we would go wild with what was in that oven about ready to be eaten not too many minutes after they came out.  Oh, the agony of waiting an eternity … the cookies took only 10 minutes to bake a full sheet … but that IS an eternity to a 6-year old. 

When they finally came out the oven, they weren’t little balls anymore.  They’d flattened themselves into wondrously round, crackled cookies with a slightly darker sand color, like wet sand, like fall leaves on the ground, and like … yes, like GINGER.  Miracles upon miracles!  Life was so good about then. 

After a second eternity lasting approximately 5 to 6 minutes, the little darling’s were cooled down, getting a nice crunch outside, and best of all, ready to eat.  Now THAT’s my kind of ready-to-eat food.  I picked out the best-looking one in the bunch.  I reverently picked it up between my thumb and index finger and placed it in the palm of my hand.  I admired the precious jewel resting there, so inviting.  I inhaled deeply, memorizing that smell which etched itself into my olfactory, never to be erased.  I lovingly picked it up, held it with the gentle care it deserved and slowly placed it between my lips, pressing my teeth through its thin crust into its soft inside.  We’re talking taste bud signals racing to the brain.  One bite of cookie had permeated my brain completely with a lifelong obsession for THOSE Ginger Cream Cookies. 

I never missed a Christmas without making those cookies.  Eventually, I took over the whole process of making the dough and baking.  I continued the tradition of making Ginger Cream Cookies after college, during my married years, and when my daughter was just a baby.  Then it became the right year to indoctrinate her into the tradition of being involved … as the official doughballer. 

It came as no surprise that she was just like me.  Only difference was that she ate more than one raw dough ball … some with and some without sugar coating … consistently each year.  I gave her the same “adult” reprimand about eating raw dough … and then immediately grabbed one myself and ate it, trying not to laugh as I watched her face go from frown and that full face smile she has.  And she’s doing this all the while reaching for her second dough ball.  I had to call a “cease fire” to the dough thievery by explaining that we wouldn’t have any cookies if she kept eating them all before they got cooked.  That bit of action was added to the next-generation Ginger Cream Cookies tradition. 

Over the years, I turned over the cooking and baking of these cookies to her, but still assisted with rolling.  She still needed practice making dough balls that perfect size; I always got the stated three dozen cookies according to the recipe. 

After she married and had her first child, she made the cookies by herself each Christmas until her son wanted to participate.  I have pictures of him on the counter with flour all over him at age 3 … he loved the kitchen.  She let him help stir and mix and make a gingerbread man out of some dough while she made the dough balls. 

For several years, her cookies weren’t turning out quite like mine so she asked me to make them when I came up to her house that Christmas.  Not knowing if she had the “right tools” to make it, I brought my yellow mixing bowl from the 4-bowl set that was popular back in the 50s – the Pyrex blue, red, green, yellow set of graduated bowls with white inside.  I also brought a really old spoon that my grandmother let me have from her kitchen when I set up my first apartment.  It was just a plain, very simple “hard plastic” spoon from the 50s.  I use the spoon because it’s an excellent tool to cream Crisco and sugar in the yellow bowl.  I always use it to make Ginger Cream Cookies. 

Even though my daughter watched me make cookies for a number of years, she wanted to observe and take notice of what and how I did it.  I arrived at her house, and we made cookies … with my bowl and spoon.  I showed her and my grandson the right amount of “pinch” to apply to the dough in the bowl to make “my-size” cookies.  She perfected the “pinch” that year. 

The anticipation on her face while the cookies were baking was like a flashback for me.  Parentally amusing. 

Cookies sat cooling on the rack; we sat at her kitchen table, eyeing the delectables, randomly “interviewing” the cookies to see which one to select for the ultimate taste test.  Having made her choice, my daughter lifted her cookie, took a half-cookie bite, chewed, swallowed, ate the other half, looked at me in wonderment and said, “You didn’t do anything different than I do, but yours are still better.  What’s the secret?”  I slowly stood up, walked over to the counter, picked up my spoon, walked back to the table, did an informal “present arms” motion while holding the spoon.  I said, “The secret?  The Magic Spoon.” 

After a few batches with her using the “Magic Spoon”, she, too, made cookies just like I do.  And she’s not the least bit skeptical about its powers. 

A few years later, I asked her what she wanted out of my earthly possessions so I’d make sure I didn’t unknowingly get rid of something or pass it on elsewhere.  She said, “There are only three things I really want:  your cookbook your class put together in the 70s, your wedding ring set, and the Magic Spoon.”  She said I didn’t need to wait until I passed on to give her the cookbook and Magic Spoon.  In the meantime, she found a spoon that was similar, but just not the same.  My grandsons decided since they didn’t have the REAL Magic Spoon yet, they’d declare this second spoon an “almost” magic spoon.  It should work quite well for them until they get the real thing. 

My daughter has a cat now.  It’s a calico – basically a white cat with black markings and splashes of darkish sandy coloring in several places.  Her name?  Ginger.  Yes, the cat truly was named for the cookies.  Honest, true story.  Talk about a tradition that made an impression. 

Now my daughter makes several batches each Holiday season, and I bring back a “Ginger Cream Cookies care package” for my close friends back home.  She also follows up by email to them making sure they got the cookies.  She knows I love these cookies as much as she does … or is it the tradition that keeps expanding and now includes my closest friends, too?  It has to be that Magic Spoon! 

PANAMA CITY, FL

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Carole Allen Bailey  

 Author of The Lady and Her Porch     "If it had not been for the encouragement and true personal interest provided by others within this group, I'd still be saying "I'm going to write a book someday". It is with thanks to them that I achieved my lifelong dream of publishing a book ... " Book Two in the trilogy due out this year!