When reminiscing about by-gone holiday seasons, it doesn’t take long before someone brings up cookies, especially the kind Grandma made. Every family has a favorite cookie recipe that, though dog eared and flour stained, has survived the handing-down from generation to generation.
They just don’t make cookies like they used to! I browse through Pinterest and there are all kinds of ooey-gooey bars and heavily iced cut-outs. Sometimes my mouth waters for the simple goodness of a Snickerdoodle, Molasses Crinkle, or my Great-Grandma’s soft sugar cookies.
For Donna Scofield, author of the story, “Mary Ann’s Gift” which appears in our anthology, Christmas Treasures: A Collection of Short Stories, their family recipe was a honey bar. Plain Mary Ann, reads Donna’a story blurb, knows widower Henry chose her as his wife because he needs a mother for his children. What she couldn’t guess was how much love and happiness would be found in their first Christmas together.
“Mary Ann’s go-to treats for the children were gingerbread, honey bars, or molasses/cornmeal cookies, since not much sugar would be used. The cornmeal/molasses cookies would probably have been the most often made (for economy’s sake), but the honey bars recipe was much easier to adapt to modern times.”
Donna’s story is fiction-based-on-fact. Mary Ann and Henry Hubbard were Donna’s great-great-grandparents. Oral family tradition says this was the treat that Mary Ann made for her beloved stepchildren, and then for her own children. “She didn’t live long enough to have grandchildren, or I’m sure she’d have made the treats for them too,” Donna says. ”She was said to have been a very loving and generous woman, supportive of her husband when he became a minister”
Here is Donna’s recipe for Honey Bars:
1/2 cup butter, softened 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, well beaten 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup honey 1/4 teaspoon each salt
1 cup chopped nuts 1/4 teaspoon soda
Turn oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch square baking pan. Beat butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs, honey and vanilla. Mix the flour, salt, soda and cinnamon together and add to the eggs, honey and vanilla. Add chopped nuts. (Mary Ann would have used black walnuts, but they’re hard to find and expensive now. Walnuts or pecans serve nicely.) Spread the batter into the pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges begin to shrink and a straw inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the bars cool in the pan, then cut them into little squares.
The best part of Christmas cookies, I think, is that they are always something that is shared. It’s no fun to eat cookies alone – even when you’re sneaking one out of the cookie jar at two in the morning!. Grandmas are always supposed to have a jar filled with fresh cookies for the grandkids. When planning women’s events at church, cookie exchanges (don’t forget the recipe) are often at the top of the idea list. We package up the leftovers for the shut-ins, we send care packages to the college students and military, we take a plate (or a basket) over to the public school teacher’s lounge.
My mom used to bake and ship cookies to the college grandkids. Now we mail cookies to her. One of my favorite projects lately is to bake cookies to leave at the Christian Students for Christ Campus House at my local university where many international students live.
There is so much wrapped up in a simple cookie. Cookies represent home, belonging, sharing, good conversation. Don’t forget – must leave cookies and milk for Santa’s helper on Christmas Eve.
Who can you bless this holiday season with a plate of Christmas cookies?
Donna Scofield has had a novella published by Harlequin/Silhouette, short stories published in women’s magazines, and was fourth place winner in the national short story contest held by Country Woman. She has self-published two books, The Family Chuckle and Back Home, historical fiction. Lighthouse of the Carolinas is preparing to publish her most recent book, That First Montana Year, for publication in August, 2015.
When not writing, Donna enjoys sewing, fancy cooking, reading, doing research for books, and traveling to their sites. “I love writing,” she says, “and whenever possible, I whip out stories for our six-year- old grandson and two great-grandsons, age three-and-a-half and fifteen months. “
The twelve authors of Christmas Treasures would love to share all their stories with you. We’ve had such a wonderful response all ready. Several people, after reading the Kindle version have said they intend to buy the print version for Christmas presents. We agree and hope you can too!