Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The A**load of Cookies Gift

There is something highly pathetic in this, but I finally had friends over to my apartment for the first time since I moved there. I moved to this apartment 1.75 years ago. So I guess there's everything highly pathetic in this. When I moved to Chicago, I had two roommates, and a corps of 85 people who were all teaching in inner-city schools. We were sickeningly insular and I always had automatic plans. When I began working at the bar, I had one roommate, who was still teaching, and a lot of new bar friends. I had automatic post-shift plans, and a friend to hang out with on my days off. When I met M, I had just moved into an apartment by myself. Most of my teaching friends had moved, but I had some left, and I had some bar friends, and I always had automatic plans with M. When I was fired, I panicked. Not that I didn't have any friends, because in the ensuing hours after, I was enveloped in lovely friends. My panic attack was more that nothing would again be automatic. Obviously, M and I have automatic plans, but with the bar I also had built-in time alone with my other friends. And it suddenly occurred to me that now I would have to make that happen.

So I decided to do something I have been talking about for years. I threw a Cookie Swap party. My roommate, S, always used to do a cookie swap with a few other friends, where they would spend all day making and tasting cookies and then they would take an assortment back home to eat or use as gifts. I've wanted to try this for a few reasons. For one, I want as many recipes as is humanly possible to collect. Two, I love cookies and want to eat lots of them. And three, I think it makes a fantastic holiday gift. You make as many types of cookies as you would normally make, and you get to give away several times as many types. I do not want to meet the person who is not delighted by a box of nine different types of cookies.

The problem with the Cookie Swap is that unless you have four different ovens and a zillion baking sheets, it takes ALL DAY to get this together. Plus, in my apartment of 1.75 years, I do not have room for more than 1.75 people in the kitchen at a time. So I decided to do a modified Cookie Swap. Basically a Cookie Swap with homework assigned. I sent an Evite to about 20 people, knowing that given the time of year, (the holidays,) the date I picked, (a Tuesday evening,) and the possible weather, (it ended up snowing,) that I would probably be lucky to have 10 people show. (I had five.) Given all these limitations, I chose a date and time that were convenient to me, as I did not have to work that day at all and left to go home to my parents' for Christmas the next morning. Then I decided that since it was possible that no one else would show, I would just make a million cookies myself and then I could give assorted cookies as presents anyway. Teaching has drilled the contingency plan into my very being.

Anyway, I sent the Evite to these people explaining the plan and asking that they each bake cookies, and then either email the recipe to me or print off about 10 copies of their recipe on half-sheets of cardstock. Then I made the mistake of going to Target, where I then bought every imaginable container that could possible hold cookies. Target, if you are unfamiliar with the greatest store on Earth, has the $1 bins, which are tricky because they make you think you need things for $1 that you would probably not even need for free. Like cellophane bags with holiday designs, Santa-themed take-out boxes, mini pails with embossed snowflakes, and 400 gift tags. Outside of the devil bins, I found Ziploc bags with snowflakes on them, and my favorite, shirt boxes with holiday designs that were packaged 5 for $2. The best thing about these is that they are flat, so you can see all the kinds of cookies in an extremely appealing spread.

This Christmas, I did a lot of cooking. One of the greatest things about being unemployed is the time you have for other things. Like this blog. And baking. I tried to pace myself, but on the actual day of Cookie Swap 2009, I somehow had NOT BAKED A SINGLE THING. I woke up at 6am. I did an at-home workout. I ate two clementines for breakfast because they were the only non-cookie-related food in my apartment. I had neaten-ed up my apartment a few days before, which among other things included hiding the air conditioner behind a door and shoving all papers in a box. But I hadn't cleaned. So for two hours, I vacuumed, Swiffer wet-jetted, dusted, cleaned the tub, the sink, the toilet, and Windexed. I even took the Magic Eraser to the stove top. I did the dishes. And then I started baking.

I made florentines, peppermint bark shortbread cookies and cappuccino brownies. I made a quick detour and made Earl Grey truffles for my dad's stocking. Then I started making peanut butter cookies. And I ran out of sugar. So I made a small batch of peanut butter cookies. I seeded two pomegranates. Then I ran out in the snow, bought a present for Kramer at the dog store. Then I took a shower, got dressed, did my makeup, did the rest of the dishes, lit some candles and set everything up. I took the recipes on half-sheets of cardstock that I made at Kinko's the day before and set them behind my cookies displayed on the table. The rest of the stack I set out in front, waiting for their respective cookies. I used the snowflake pails for tea and hot chocolate, set next to mugs. I had Christmas tree paper plates, and holiday napkins from my friend, A. I displayed the assortment of cookie receptacles in the kitchen, and in the living room I had a snowman gift box with gift tags and binder rings with a hole puncher for the recipe cards. I used the remainder of the candy canes from the cookies to decorate a bowl of leftover clementines. I set out bowls of candy that I had received as gifts from a holiday party two days before. Then, I opened a bottle of prosecco and set it next to a bowl full of the pomegranate seeds, champagne flutes, wine glasses and a bottle of red wine. I spooned some pomegranate seeds in my glass, poured prosecco over it and took a deep breath as I loaded the stereo with holiday music. I have no idea how I got any of this done, other than I didn't eat or sit down the entire day.

Once my beautiful friends arrived, we had an overflowing table of gorgeous treats. We ate some, we packed the rest, and we made recipe rings with the cards strung along the binder rings. The best part of doing the Cookie Swap this way is that when your intended recipient eats the cookies, they can pick out their favorite, find it in the recipe ring and then make it themselves whenever they want. Except the florentines. I was convinced that I was going to wreck this flimsy cookie, so I didn't write it up. And then it turned out to be a hit. I guess there are always future Cookie Swaps. Maybe it will even become automatic.

1 comment:

  1. As a recipient of one of the aforementioned shirt boxes of holiday cookie goodness, I can certainly vouch for their tastiness... my family gobbled them up! xoxoxo