This week I had the honor of being selected as a judge for the Morning Call's Third Annual Holiday Cookie Contest. Along with the three other judges, I sampled and munched my way through twelve different types of cookies. The cookies were one of several types: drop, shaped or bar. The cookies ranged from high in fat, low in calories, rich in nuts and chocolate, gluten-free and even sugar free. The common factor of all the cookies was the care and pride that went into each and every one. The contestants shared stories of their cookie's origin and how they learned to bake alongside their grandmothers.
In our family, my grandmother was the star baker. Being a first generation Greek American, my maternal grandmother, Mary, made everything she touched delicious! Her home was immaculate and always smelled scrumptious. Her garden was meticulously-tended and source of pride. She made me feel truly loved... My favorite memory of my grandmother, if I had to choose, was the way she would make my all-time favorite cookie called Koulourakia. Koulourakia are not too sweet and are a lovely hand-shaped treat. When properly made, they are crispy yet tender and dry, yet moist. Koulourakia are utterly addictive and one of the most labor intensive cookies to make because one batch can make hundreds! Each bit of dough is pinched off, rolled into a log and then lovingly twisted into shape. In our home, we call Koulourakia "Twisty Cookies." So-named by our oldest daughter, Alyssa, when she was a wee girl. I bet many of you readers cannot say "Koulourakia" either... Well, try it when you're two!
When our younger daughter, Mia, was born, she was born with a severe case of in-toeing - her little feet looked like kidney beans and nearly curved inward to touch her baby legs... Mia (and by extension, me) underwent years of torturous treatments involving first casts and then reverse lat shoes and then custom braces, until she was nearly three! When Mia became old enough to eat solid foods, I would pack along Koulourakia cookies to appease her during the arduous casting process. Her doctor would marvel at how such a simple, little biscuit could provide such comfort. Isn't that what a cookie can do? Provide comfort?
Cookies are little bits of happy memories we can share. I bet most of us has a cookie-related memory. For me, it was getting to "eat my fill" of my Gram's Koulourakia while she sat rapt with attention as only a grandmother can. She would go and get the packed jar of cookies from the back part of her house she called "The Cold Room." Gram would place the jar in front of me and say 'Now, tell me everything.' I can still see her sweet smiling face as I prattled on about work and teenage love interests. She insisted my grandfather, John, turn off the radio that was always playing baseball and NEVER complained about the crumbs.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor