A boomer who ruined the Christmas cookies

We’ve all been around a long time, and probably all have remembrances good and bad. But what we just got here at BoomerCafé from Estella Clifford of Glenside, Pennsylvania, is a mid-1950s remembrance of one Christmas both good and bad. Estella calls it, Christmas ala Salt!

It’s Christmas time again, and a lot of things have changed in my life. For one thing, this is only the second Christmas of my life when I no longer have immediate family to be with during the holidays. It’s a little strange, but it’s okay. I had a lot of happy Christmases with them.

Also, this is my first holiday season as a “retiree.” That’s a little harder to deal with. Although it was my choice, I do miss the camaraderie of my office mates. But I am too young to take to my rocking chair. So what to do? What to do? I try out new careers in my head.

Estella Clifford and her mother.

So here I am, sitting watching The Great British Baking Show, Christmas edition, and imagining a new career as a pastry chef. It’s kind of neat, watching this. They are doing all the measurements in metrics — grams and mils, rather than cups and ounces. And using slightly different terms, like “cling film” instead of “plastic wrap.” Still, it takes me back to making Christmas cookies with Mom, when I was a kid.

Before I was big enough to actually participate (she thought!), she’d put me in my highchair at the kitchen table while she worked. One time when her attention was elsewhere, I “helped,” reaching into the red and white plastic canister, grabbing some more sparkly white crystal stuff, and dropping it into the batter. Well, it looked like the stuff she put in there! However, what I added was a small fistful of salt, instead of the sugar she’d been adding. Well, heck, they looked exactly alike, to my toddler eyes!

My mother was quite strong-willed, not a woman to give in to temptation. Once the cookies were baked, and having sampled a previous batch, she saw no need to indulge in more tasting. She let them cool, then packed them away. Without sampling any. Salt instead of sugar? Oops. She didn’t know.

It wasn’t until Christmas Day that my helpfulness was revealed. I don’t remember who the lucky victim was, but some family member took a cookie and happily popped it in the mouth, anticipating the buttery almond sweetness of a melt-in-your-mouth Spritz cookie … only to spit it right out. My contribution to the baking process had rendered Mom’s cookies inedible.

She had wrapped some others and given them away, so she was a tad upset. My assistance discovered, Mom explained the difference between salt and sugar. I was too young to realize it at the time, but she was mortified to have given the cookies to people outside the family. At least she was able to warn them off of actually eating any!

I didn’t get punished, and life when on. It wasn’t until I was an adult that Mom recounted the incident to me, and at a distance of forty years, we laughed.

And that is why I sample every batch!


    1. Aha! That’s it! I was just way ahead of the trend! Y’know, the first time I got sea salt in my ice cream, and sea salt in my chocolate, I was taken aback. I’ve gotten used to it, though. However, I’m pretty sure I that batch of cookies exceeded anyone’s tolerance!

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