The sky opened early this morn, sprinkling miniature shrubbery of forest green with flakes of dry white. Peeking outside from the inside of kitchen warmth, I was reminded of a silver-colored tin, bigger than a soup can, yet smaller than a breadbox. It had a red-painted handle to the side, making it easy for hands of little ones to grab and hold and shake. When turned upside down, magic dust sprinkled from the top of it.
My grandmother was a true gift in my life. For most of her years on this earth, she loved to bake. It is without hesitation to say that she was the best I ever knew. Everything escaping from her oven door was stirred and whipped from scratch. Years and years of recipes had been handed down to her from my Swedish Great-Grandmother.
My grandma was the very best at baking cookies, pies and cakes. Her dark Swedish rye bread was out of this world and she loved to make home-made applesauce together with jams and jellies of berry red. She was a wonderful cook, but her baking surely could have won awards from all around the world! She stirred and whipped egg-yolk batters in colored bowls stacked on dusty floured counter tops. Soon a round oven buzzer of black and white would ring announcing it was time to spring. With big mitts upon her hands, she’d shove baking sheets of delicious confections in the dark while taking others out the door.
At holiday time, baking Christmas cookies was a long-standing tradition. Some called for a finger’s pinch while others begged for my grandmother’s print of thumb. Often she rolled out dough for me to press shapes into animals, trees, or a Santa’s face from cookie cutters made with rounded edges. They were silver too, and had red wooden handles in the middle. As a child, I remember Grandma helping me to first press down hard while carefully lifting them afterwards on to baking sheets.
A few of Grandma’s prized bowls were covered and set to the side for later. Fancy dough of buttered shortbread plus balls in rainbow colors to make her special cookies of spritz. Shades of pastel yellow, pine green and angel blue with some in a touch of peppermint pink. Often too pretty to eat!
My favorite of all was Grandma’s puffy molasses cookies, the color of sugar brown. Lined in rows of six across, she’d bake three dozen or more at a time. When the buzzer on the stove would ring-a-ding-ding, Grandma opened the oven door to a flash of heat that warmed my face and smelled so sweet. Lifting me up on a stool, she helped me grip a red-painted handle to hold a silver tin with piercings punched into the top. Tiny stars, a sun and a half-moon, I think.
And then, magic happened! When I turned the container upside down, shaking it ever so gently, powdered sugar of white lowered to the tops of cookies all around. Like snow falling in slow motion, it floated and drifted until it landed inside the crevices of my very favorite sweets to eat.
Today, I am lucky enough to behold the magic of my grandmother’s silver sugar tin together with her basket of antique cookie cutters. Whenever I use them, I remember little hands touching the love of them. What a wonderful tradition to share with my own four grand-daughters one day. They will be sure to hear the stories of my grandma’s Christmas cookie traditions and learn all about her. To think it all began with the inside and the outside of my grandmother’s sweetness.