Baking isn’t really my specialty, but when the holiday season rolls around, there are a few family recipes that are must-haves in our house. So, when my son walked in the door this past week after his first semester away at college, I wasn’t surprised that the first things he asked for were his favorite home-cooked meal and some Christmas cookies. I was more than happy to oblige and quickly reached for one of my tried and true cookie recipes, one that my mom taught me to make.
Moms are pretty smart people, and mine is no exception. Paying close attention to her all these years has helped me to at least appear to be proficient in many areas of life, cooking being right at the top of that list. And so I carefully looked through her recipe to make sure I had all the right ingredients and got to work at making it just like I was taught: dry ingredients together, wet ingredients together, then mix the two, chill no less than 2 hours, roll them just the right size.
I had just popped the first batch in the oven when I realized I had a problem: I didn’t have any paper grocery bags. You see, when making cookies, my mom always took a paper grocery bag and cut it open along the edges until it was a sheet she could lay out on the counter. When the cookies came out of the oven, she scooped them off the baking sheet and onto the paper grocery bag sheet to cool before they went into the cookie jar. I never really asked why she did it that way. I just assumed that it was a super-top-secret family baking trick essential to the reason her cookies always tasted sooooooo good, and that I was privileged to learn the technique.
So, there I was: stuck without an essential tool to cookie success and only minutes to improvise. What I did have handy were some paper towels, which I lined on my counter in time to pull the cookies out of the oven. Then I carefully scooped them onto the paper towels and hoped no one would notice.
My son came down that evening and happily devoured about half a dozen. He gave me a big hug and told me how great they tasted and how my cookies are the best anywhere.
As I put the cookies in the cookie jar that evening, I realized that my batch of cookies was a life lesson of sorts. We get used to our own traditions and ways of doing things. They work for us and we associate them with the people we love, making them the preferred method in our eyes and hearts. But in reality, there are lots of ways to achieve success. The joy our traditions bring is really about the people, not the process.
As you celebrate the holidays these next weeks, take time to appreciate traditions and lessons shared with you by the people you love. But if you find yourself without a paper grocery bag, remember that it’s okay to improvise a little. They’ll never know.