Last year, I joined a holiday home-baked cookie exchange. But because I left it to the last minute, I cheated and bought from a neighbourhood bakery. I totally got away with it! But they loved the cookies too much. They anointed me the Cookie Queen, and I still hear, "Mmm mmm, chocolate almond crackles!" My own cookies will NOT taste as good. This year, should I buy again?
Personally, I don't see the big deal – but then I never had much of a sweet tooth. Mine's more of a booze tooth. My system gets its sugar requirements in ice-cooled liquid format, so I eschew brownies, cakes, cookies and the like.
In fact, I'd never heard of these so-called "cookie exchanges" you speak of. (I'm a sad isolated man moodily sipping scotch in front of the fire muttering stuff like "I'll show them all!") So I put on my journalistic hat and did some digging.
My source, Deep Dough, would only speak on condition of absolute anonymity, and she painted a hair-raising picture of scandal, intrigue and one-upmanship in the fiercely competitive, cloak-and-dagger, dog-eat-dog underworld of the cookie exchange.
According to Deep Dough, in a textbook cookie exchange, six to 10 people bake cookies for one another. Each person bakes a different kind, so that everyone gets to look like they personally cooked six to 10 different types of cookies for the enjoyment of friends and family. And heaven forbid your cookies should be less than delicious, or your baking buddies will get out their cookie cutters and cut you up behind your back, she says.
Now, like I say, I don't get it. Last night I watched my wife Pam pop open a tub of whipped cream cheese, slather it on a box of mini-banana breads she bought at Costco, then grate some lemon zest onto them with my kitchen rasp. (Destination: middle child's school bake sale.)
Presto! Home-made! I was impressed – with her domestic skills. We have three kids in three different schools, two busy careers and a friggin' dog.
But the whole point, Deep Dough says, of the home-baked cookie exchange is they be home-baked. If one person cheats, it's a slippery, non-stick slope. Next year, half of the people will bring store-bought. The year after that, everyone cheats to keep up – and the whole operation falls apart.
Being "busy" is no excuse, in her view. "We're all busy," she intoned, sounding ominous.
So yes, I would say: Bake something at home this year. Try something more in the comfort zone of your skill set. You don't need to say anything about last year's exchange. What's past is past. You risk being branded a flash-in-the-pan, a one-trick pony. Oh well.
At least you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you held up your end of the bargain.
Which is what the holidays is all about, isn't it? Okay, I'm out. All this cookie talk is making me thirsty.
Every day this week, David Eddie will be solving your holiday dilemmas.
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