What’s this? Thanksgiving cookies? No, no, no. Thanksgiving isn’t about cookies, you say. It’s about pies. And lots of ’em.
I agree. Thanksgiving, in strictly traditional, American terms, is dedicated to the pursuit of turkey, stuffing, and as many varieties of pie as we can stand to stuff down our gullets before kickoff. I’m not planning to rock the boat, either; when we sit down to dinner at my in-laws’ table on Thanksgiving Day, we won’t be doing anything radical, unless you count the addition of the special crumb cake — from a very specific bakery — that will be carted up from New Jersey with the visiting family members, with all the pomp and circumstance of the procession that accompanied the Ark of the Covenant.
But in the worlds populated by L., P., and my dear friend/adopted family member B.W., there is now a special place in the culinary calendar for the Thanksgiving cookie.
It started a few weeks ago, when B.W. — who lives in a different state, and whose schedule is so completely oppositional to ours that we hadn’t managed to get together in nearly a year — emailed me the following: “Unexpected weekend off!!!! PLEASE tell me you’re not doing anything!” She provided me with the dates — this past weekend — and I happily responded that she should come ahead. What, I asked, would she like to do with her gift of freedom?
Her response can only serve to illuminate one of the hundreds of reasons why I love B.W., and why we’re such good friends. “I think we should make Thanksgiving cookies…since that holiday is so close…and then we get to eat them,” she wrote. It’s worth noting that to the outside reader, it would appear that the “Thanksgiving cookie” was something she and I both knew intimately, alongside the chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and other standard varieties. However, neither of us had any clue what a Thanksgiving cookie might be; we just knew, intuitively, that if you get the two of us into a kitchen, we will probably turn out something pretty good.
My family, of course, is attuned to the activities in our kitchen so finely that I think they can smell some change in the wind that heralds the arrival of holiday baking season. J. and L., at least, knew that with the arrival of November would come the inevitable preparations for the upcoming holidays; I bake so many varieties of cookies and breads for Christmas that I have to complete the tasks over the course of several weekends, freezing things as I go. They naturally expected Christmas cookies to be forthcoming, following the usual logic. But when I said to L., “What if we make some Thanksgiving cookies?” his whole face went slack with wonder.
“Ohhhhhh,” he breathed. “Thanksgiving cookies?” Then, squealing, running to find J.: “Daddy! Daddy! Mommy and Auntie B.W. are going to make…Thanks…giving…cook…ies!”
That’s my kid, to the core. No clue what I was talking about, but all enthusiasm and certainty that we’d figure it out.
The baking and cooking spree that ensued when B.W. did arrive was nothing short of epic; in one afternoon, we accomplished the following list:
Roast lamb dinner with garlic mashed potatoes, turnip-apple puree, and roasted acorn squash
The preparations for an apple French toast casserole (which has to be made the night before, to be baked the next morning)
And, of course, the Thanksgiving cookies.
What we ended up doing was simple and (I say humbly) genius. Thanksgiving, to me, means pumpkin; pumpkin and chocolate are a match made in heaven; and B.W. and I agreed that we should make the cookies look sort of cute and appealing for the kids. I reasoned that the old standby thumbprint cookie with the Hershey’s Kiss in the center has to be one of the quintessential visually appealing, kid-friendly, rock ’em-sock ’em holiday desserts. So between the two of us, we spent a few minutes debating ingredients and quantities, then threw a whole mess of stuff into the mixer and came up with a pumpkin-spice thumbprint cookie, complete with chocolate kiss center.
J. sort of wrinkled his nose at the prospect, but I know my husband — if there are warm cookies in the vicinity, he’ll give them a shot, no matter what. After a tentative first bite, I had to sternly shoo him away from the stash; “I didn’t think I’d like these, but they’re really, really good,” he said. L., of course, was already excited about his Thanksgiving cookies, so the sight of a big piece of chocolate candy sticking out of the one I gave him almost sent him straight over the edge. He and P. both downed their samples so quickly that I actually had to check the floor beneath P.’s high chair to be sure he hadn’t simply dropped the cookie by mistake. And I can’t say that B.W. and I didn’t have our fair share of the batch. As I search for new and different holiday food traditions, the Thanksgiving cookie may have to be a keeper. Move over, pie.