Christmas Cookies in October
I went to school in Tennessee. Many of my college classmates were Midwesterners. They received care packages from home and they, being Midwesterners, politely shared their goodies with me.
I recall the first time my roommate offered me a chocolate chip cookie fresh out of a coffee can full of them. I held it up and began to chuckle. “These silly Hoosiers. They put spaghetti in their chili and eat Christmas cookies in the fall.” Whoever heard of eating Christmas cookies in October? When I was asked what I found so funny, I repeated aloud my thought.
“What are you talking about: Christmas cookies?” he asked.
“Christmas cookies.” I said. “Did your mom send you spritz and sugar cookies as well? Maybe a few date roll-ups to round out the package?”
My roommate was bewildered. Attempting to clarify the ridiculousness of the situation, I explained, “Chocolate chip cookies are as Christmas-y as candy canes.”
I don’t know who was more surprised: me or him. It turns out my mother did not bake sweets except at Christmas. The lard can with its cardboard divider covered in wax paper was a once-a-year larder. That is the only time I ever ate chocolate chip cookies, so they are associated in my mind with December 25. Midwestern moms, it turned out, baked year round. Hoosiers ate chocolate chip cookies whenever they wanted.
The experience of food is not a unitary phenomenon. I was embarrassed the day I realized that it was my limited experience with chocolate chip cookies that made me laugh at them. I was being arrogant in the face of generosity. Later, I felt some sadness that my mother did not send care packages to me at college.
Most of what you learn in college does not happen in the classroom. You learn lifelong lessons when you interact with others in the dorm or cafeteria. I saw that day how small my world was. It was about the size of a chocolate chip cookie.
What do you think – are cookies for the holidays or all year long?
Maybe you have some thoughts about food as well. Let me invite you to share them during the 15th annual Spirit & Place Festival this year. The theme is Food for Thought and will run from November 5 through 14. I am David Wantz and I am a member of the S&P board. I hope you will join us.