When my sister Kaki laughed, a few age lines appeared around her mouth and eyes. We were rolling out holiday cookie dough in my kitchen on that last Christmas spent together, and because she was a dead ringer for our grandmother, a prescient thought occurred to me: “I know what she’s going to look like when she’s old.” Didn’t say it aloud. If I had, maybe life would be different, but that’s magical thinking for you.
The first gingerbread man is credited to the court of Queen Elizabeth I, who favored important guests with a likeness baked as a cookie. Four centuries later, my sister, an artist and graphic designer, turned her own crisply browned wafers into an X-rated gender statement, her sense of humor always a little darker and definitely a lot dirtier than mine. The androgynous cookies swiftly developed body parts, with cinnamon red hots and sprinkles explicitly applied. She even smashed dough through a garlic press to create a hairy effect. Santa undoubtedly laugh-snorted his milk when he saw our offering next to the chimney later that night. Full-frontal cookies are Kaki’s holiday legacy to our family.
Recently, I mailed vintage tin cutters and the recipe to a niece named in my sister’s honor after Kaki left us too soon, never destined to be old, though her naughty spirit lingers when I slide a batch of her mature-audience gingerbread into the oven this time of year.