Celebrated cookbook author Dorie Greenspan enchanted her son's entire third grade school with Christmas cookies.
I failed at a million things as a mother. Our son, Joshua, ties his shoes awkwardly because I bought him Velcro sneakers; he doesn't eat mushrooms because at the first sign of his not liking them, I never served them to him again (maybe I should have hidden them under the mashed potatoes); and his favorite bedtime is about 4 o'clock in the morning (no set tuck-in times chez us because I loved having him up and around—yes, I was overindulgent). But he's kind, curious, creative, funny, and whip-smart; speaks fluent French; and loves cookies. I only take credit for the cookies.
As soon as I could get The Kid, as he was known from prebirth, on a stepladder, we baked cookies together. We baked for birthdays and picnics and friends and dinners and for no reason at all, and we always baked Christmas gifts for his teachers, even when it really wasn't the coolest thing to do.
Joshua went to school in New York City. He went to the kind of very formal elementary school where the boys had to wear collard shirts, ties, and blazers, and he went during the city's Bonfire of the Vanities moment, when many of his classmates' mothers were going to their high-powered jobs wearing dress-for-success suits with shoulder pads pointy enough to joust the competition out of the corner office.
Me? I worked at home, cooking and writing about food for print—there was no Internet, no blogs, no Instagram. And baking cookies. Trust me, no other mom in the class was doing this.
And it was never clearer than at holiday time, when, on the last day before Christmas break, the children would come in with the presents their parents had bought for their teachers. There were a sprinkling of boxes in Tiffany blue; some packages from stylish boutiques; and one cellophane-wrapped satchel of cookies, an assortment that might include vanilla shortbread, lemon wafers, chocolate snaps, and one of my favorites: pfefferneusse, spiced nut cookies with the fragrance of Christmas. We tied the package with festive and curly colored ribbons and a card that Joshua and I had made.
Every family received a handwritten thank-you note from the teacher, but the note I got was special—it included a request to be kept on the cookie list even after Joshua had moved up to the next grade.
It's a good thing The Kid finally graduated out of that school—we would never have been able to keep up with the Christmas cookie baking if he hadn't. By his graduation, we were baking fresh batches for teachers both past and present, homeroom and special subjects, aides and principals.
Joshua (whose Twitter bio is "C for Cookie") says that cookies are memories and that every cookie memory is a happy one. Who cares if he ties his shoelaces backward? Baking and sharing cookies is lots more important. It's tastier, too.
Greenspan's latest cookbook, Dorie's Cookies ($35), features more than 160 cookie recipes that meet her "three purple stars" standard of scrumptiousness. It's a must-have for bakers.