I was going to save this post for closer to Christmas because it's a bit of a Christmas story, but these cookies are so good that I wanted to share them now with you. Plus there's a bit of a tie-in at the end.
I used to work in an insurance agency in Plymouth, Massachusetts (America's Hometown says their slogan, although their are other towns that were discovered and settled long before Plymouth, but it's still a catchy slogan), and there was quite a mix of clientele, ranging from descendants of the Pilgrims to immigrants , the financially secure, to those who struggled.
One of my clients was a dear old lady, a widow of some years, living on her meager social security check. She drove a 15-year-old Chrysler that would hiccup and puff clouds of blue smoke as she drove. Once a week she would come in and collect the soda cans we made a point of saving for her and cash them in for their five cent return deposit. For her, every nickle mattered, but we hardly cared, tossing them away. What is a nickle?
At Christmastime, clients came in with gifts for "the girls." There were big pots of perfect ruby red poinsettias purchased from the best florist, huge tins of buttery Danish cookies purchased from the best bakery, boxes of gourmet chocolates wrapped in gold foil and silk ribbons purchased from the best candy store.
About a week before Christmas, Mrs. Marks drove into our parking lot. I watched her from the picture window beside my desk. Her old Chrysler came to an abrupt stop when she hit the tar berm at the end of the parking space, a blue cloud of smoke settling around her. There seemed to be some flustering in the car, but eventually she rolled out the front seat. I got up from my chair to go to the agency's kitchen to retrieve the trash bag of soda pop cans we saved for her. When I came back in, she was already at the counter, smiling, eyes shining, wishing a softly-spoken Very Merry Christmas to everyone.
In front of her, laying on the counter, was a plain white paper plate filled with a dozen or so cookies, wrapped in clear plastic wrap. The wrap didn't cling to the flimsy paper plate, and she neatly tucked it underneath to make a prettier presentation. "I just made these this morning for you girls. " She pushed the plate towards me.
I lifted up one side of the plastic wrap and selflessly took only one cookie. She watched me as I bit into it, trying to glean every nuance of expression. A pause as the deep flavors registered in my brain and in my mouth. I think "WOW!" must have been written on my face. "These are excellent!" I declared.
Mrs. Marks' Gingersnaps are excellent, the very best I ever had. There is no skimping on spices and no skimping on flavor. They can be made soft by slightly undercooking, made crisp by longer cooking. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've made these. And every time I eat one, I think of that beautiful lady, giving the very best she had, from her heart.
Let me share the recipe, just as she wrote it, on the back of her electric light bill envelope.
1 cup sugar
3/4 c shortening
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda (she means baking soda)
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cloves1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
a little additional sugar for rolling balling of doughs into
Mix all together. Roll in small balls and dip one side in sugar. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grins. Her directions are as frugal as she was.
Okay, so I slightly change the method. In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening. Add the egg and molasses, mix well. Sift together the dry ingredients and gradually add to the wet, just until blended. Do not overmix. Take small pinches of dough and roll into balls about the size of a small walnut (these cookies will spread).
In a separate small plate or bowl, sprinkle maybe 1/4 cup of sugar. Roll one side only of the ball of dough in the sugar. Place sugared balls on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. I tend to like my cookies a little on the soft side so I start checking at ten minutes baking time.
And while we're on the subject of giving from the heart, I'd like to take a moment and acknowledge several fellow bloggers. I made it to my 100th post (four posts ago, grins) and along the way, these wonderful, beautiful ladies have gone far above and beyond in sharing their time and friendship with me. They have extended their hand in friendship, encouragement and inspiration and cheerful camaraderie.
Cooking is a soulcraft, I think. Those who love to cook for those they love and care about are nurturers. Once we have taken our first breath, it is our mother's breast and heartbeat that we crave. And once the babe no longer needs the breast, we still continue to show our love through the foods we prepare and present. The loving heart still beats and we still crave its comforting sound.
For my friends (in the order that I met you),
Trish, at The Mad Chemist and Schemmelhos
Coleen at Coleen's Recipes
Ang at Gulf Coast Gram
Chaya at Sweet and Savory Says It All and Have The Cake and The Bad Girl's Kitchen
I want to give you a small acknowledgment for the greatest gift, your friendship. Bless you and all you do.
And many blessings to my fellow foodies and bloggers. You give cheer and sustenance and lift up those around you. I pray that your hearts beat long and strong.