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Archive for the ‘Cookies in Politics and Life’ Category

My grandmothers knew the importance of a tasty homemade cookie. However, only recently have politicians gained this understanding. Who will win the 2012 Family Circle Presidential Cookie Bake-Off: Michelle Obama or Ann Romney? Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to fire up your ovens, and then vote.

Cookies were introduced to America by immigrants from Holland, England, and Scotland. The term cookie is derived from a Dutch word, koekje. Cookies originated as test cakes when a small amount of cake batter was baked to test the oven temperature. Probably young children eagerly volunteered to consume the test cakes, as I loved to lick the batter from the cake and cookie mixing bowls and beaters. Admittedly, I still lick the batter and, at nearly sixty years of age, I have never contracted salmonella from the raw eggs. That may be due to my childhood farm life and the introduction of bacterial diversity to my system.

As a child, I thought all grandmothers baked cookies. At least, both of mine did. I never actually saw them bake cookies, but it’s a safe assumption that the homemade cookies neatly arranged in their cookie jars were covered with Grandma Nan’s and Grandma Edith’s finger prints, not Grandpa Fred’s or Grandpa Cliff’s. Grandma Nan’s cookie jar was a big pig wearing a baker’s cap and apron. It sat proudly on her kitchen counter. Another one was a lovely etched, green, depression-glass biscuit jar. I loved both cookie jars, and not just for the contents. Those cookies were made of sugar and tasty, but, more importantly, made by the hands of those I loved.

Pig cookie jar similar to Grandma Nan’s

Grandma Edith’s specialty was peanut butter cookies. When she married my grandfather in 1925, peanut cookies had only recently been introduced. Around that period, George Washington Carver, an African-American educator, botanist, and scientist, promoted peanut production to replace cotton, which had been destroyed by the boll weevil, as the cash crop of the South. Mr. Carver included three recipes for peanut cookies in his 1916 publication, “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption.” The peanuts were crushed or chopped prior to adding to the cookie batter.In 1922, peanut butter was invented by Joseph Rosefield and marketed by Swift & Company as E.K. Pond peanut butter. The name changed to Peter Pan when the children’s novels of the same name were published. During the next decade, peanut butter made its way into cookies as an ingredient in Peanut Butter Balls in a Pillsbury cookbook. This recipe instructed the baker to roll the dough into balls, and then press them down with the tines of a fork.

As a little girl, I noticed parallel lines on the surface of my grandma’s cookies. For a few seconds prior to consumption, I wondered how she made those ridges stretching across the cookie. However, my curiosity quickly faded as the peanut butter cookie continued its path into my salivating mouth. Only years later, when I received her recipe, did I learn the origin of the lines.

Grandma Edith’s Peanut Butter Cookies

Cream together:
½ c. butter
½ c. white sugar
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. peanut butter
Add:     1 beaten egg and ½ t. vanilla
Mix together:    1 ½ c. flour, 1 t. baking soda, and ½ t. salt
Add flour mixture to rest of ingredients and chill. May add chopped peanuts to batter.
Drop on an oiled cookie sheet and press down with a fork that has been dipped in flour.
Bake until set but not hard, approximately 12-14 minutes at 375 degrees.

Returning from a botanical field trip to the North Carolina coastal plain, my colleagues and I stopped in an Amish store in PenderCounty. As I crossed the threshold of the old country store, a sweet smell brought back memories of my past. “What is that smell?” I asked Marj. Soon, we spotted bags of cookies on the check-out counter, and, of course, I purchased a couple bags. Sharing the cookies on the drive home, we all agreed that they topped off an excellent day in the field. But why did those cookies elicit such a strong memory?

That evening, I called my mother. “Mom, today I bought some cookies at an Amish country store. They were like a sugar cookie with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on the top.” The sweetest tone in her reply was filled with love, “Ah, Snickerdoodles, Grandma Nan baked them all the time.” How appropriate that my German Grandmother Fillman (Villman) baked Snickerdoodles, which are thought to be derived from a German cinnamon-dusted pastry called Schneckennudeln.

Grandma Nan’s Betty Crocker Snickerdoodles

Cream together:
1 c. soft shortening
1 ½ c. sugar
2 eggs
Sift together, and then stir into above:
2 ¾ c. flour
2 t. cream of tarter
1 t. soda
½ t. salt
Roll into balls the size of a walnut. Roll balls in mixture of 2 T. sugar & 2 t. cinnamon.
Place about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8-10 minutes in hot oven (400 degrees) until lightly browned but still soft. The cookies puff up at first, and then flatten out with crinkled tops.
Makes 5 dozen 2 inch cookies.

There were no chocolate chip cookies in my grandmother’s cookie jars; they were one of my favorite treats. It was also the favorite cookie for the Cookie Monster on Sesame Street, who gruffly demanded, “Me want cookie!” Cookie Monster would have adored living with Hillary Clinton who baked his favorite cookies, and he probably would have voted for Bill Clinton during the 1992 presidential campaign.

During Bill’s campaign, Hillary Clinton replied to a reporter in Chicago’s Busy Bee Coffee Shop, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.” Ms. Clinton received much grief over her cookie quote, but minor compared to what she faced as first lady.

During the Clinton/Bush campaign, the cookie quote inspired the first Family Circle Presidential Bake-Off. In 1992, Hillary’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies beat Barbara Bush’s classic chocolate chip cookies, 55% to 45%, and Bill Clinton won the election. Since that first bake-off, the Family Circle winner has successfully predicted the presidential winner in all elections except one when Cindy McCain’s oatmeal-butterscotch cookies beat Michelle Obama’s shortbread cookies.

Hillary Clinton’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 c. shortening
1 c. packed brown sugar
½ c. white sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 c. rolled oats
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush baking sheets lightly with vegetable oil.
Combine flour, salt, and baking soda on waxed paper.
Beat together shortening, sugars, and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in rolled oats and then chocolate chips.
Drop batter by rounded teaspoon onto baking sheets. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes or till golden. Cool cookies on sheets for 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Yield 7 dozen

This year, 2012, Michelle submitted another Obama family favorite, white and dark chocolate chip cookies and Ann Romney submitted oatmeal M & M’s cookies. Search the web for recipes and vote, but don’t forget to vote in the real election on November 6!

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