Sensing the Season
You probably feel the same way I do. As a parent, I want to do everything I can to make sure my two boys have a “memorable” childhood. Memorable in a good way, of course. So, my wife and I take them to interesting places, encourage them to try different foods, and snap about a bazillion photos to document our experiences together.
Still, for all of the “memorable” stuff we do, I can’t help but wonder how much my kids actually will remember. After all, they are only 6 and 3, and unless you’re Junie B. Jones, it’s kind of tough to write first-grade memoirs with any great detail. I’m 37, and those closets in my brain that hold 30-year-old memories are filled with a lot of, ahek-ahek, dust.
There is hope, however. In my humble, nonscientific, but always correct opinion, the brain best remembers those things that, at a moment in time, inundated one of the five senses: sight, taste, hearing, smell and touch. And, it seems to me, that kind of attack on the senses is bound to happen each year when the holidays roll around. It’s the time when colors are a tad sparklier (yes, I said sparklier), songs are a bit zazzier (yes, zazzier) and cakes taste more rum-my (no, not yummy, rum-my).
That’s why, for me, a good percentage of my early childhood memories that still exist revolve around the holidays and the senses. And I’m making a concerted effort to pass these memories on to my two sons. Here’s a sample.
Taste. I know you’ll be right with me on this one. Candy canes. Close your eyes and savor a candy cane, and you’ll immediately be transported to the holidays of your childhood. My particular favorite version of candy canes, for as far back as I can recall, is the seasonal special, peppermint stick ice cream. Basically, it’s mint ice cream with crushed candy canes. My boys prefer mini-candy canes that turn their fingers red and sticky.
Sight. The sight of holiday specials on television is a long-standing memory. Seeing the Dolly Madison advertisement that accompanied “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was always a sure sign the holidays were here. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and Frosty the Snowman” endure to this day — my boys watch them as intently as my brothers and I used to. They also have added Disney’s new holiday special, “Prep and Landing,” to their list of seasonal must-see TV shows.
Hearing. Two words: Bing Crosby. No album will ever top Bing’s “White Christmas” for direct association with the holidays. In my mind, I can clearly hear Bing singing, “I’m dreaming …” and my dad singing, “of a …” and my grandfather singing, “white Christmas.” Who doesn’t love to impersonate the bub-a-dub-bub sound of the old crooner? My boys certainly will grow up knowing the name Bing Crosby.
Smell. The smell of the holidays, for me, is pine. My father once tried (I’m told) to put up an artificial tree in our house. But one look at my mother’s face told him he better box it up, throw it in the trash and drive, as fast as he could, to the lot down the street to pick up a real tree. Once inside, a tree’s pine scent dominates everything. You may get a momentary whiff of a baked good or a burned-out bulb on the tree, but the pine soon will take over again.
Touch. Finally, from my childhood memories, the holidays always recall the feeling of squishing cookie dough in my hands. One of my family’s great traditions was the annual baking of a cookie called Winter Rainbows. The recipe calls for the dough to be colored red, yellow and green. In order to color the dough, my mom would squeeze a few drops of food coloring on the dough and then let my brothers and I have at it. With enough squishing, the dough turned a vibrant color — and so did our hands. I remember going to school with green fingers.
Now, it’s my sons’ turn to squish dough. And since it is the season of giving, I’d like to offer the gift of the Winter Rainbows recipe to you. Spend some time with your kids making memories and making some really great cookies. Enjoy — and happy holidays!
Brian Kantz really wants you to make these cookies. They’re good. Seriously. Visit Brian online at www.briankantz.com or drop him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
W icon: Download the Winter Rainbows cookie recipe at www.charlotteparent.com/______________.
Makes 6 dozen cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. baking soda
10 tbsp. (1 ¼ sticks) butter, softened
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Yellow, green and red food coloring
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix or sift together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Beat butter with sugars until fluffy in a large bowl. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture, a third at a time, blending well to make a soft dough.
Divide dough into 3 equal portions, tinting one green, one red and one yellow. Roll each portion of dough into a 9 x 5-inch rectangle between sheets of wax paper. Chill in freezer 10 minutes.
Cut each piece of dough in half lengthwise, cutting through wax paper. Peel off top sheets. Brush top of one strip lightly with milk; place another strip, paper side up, on top. Peel off paper. Repeat procedure with remaining dough strips, alternating colors, to make six layers. Press lightly together. Cut finished stack lengthwise to make 2 narrow stacks. Wrap in plastic wrap, foil, or wax paper; chill in refrigerator 3 hours or overnight.
Unwrap dough. Cut into 1/8-inch slices with a sharp knife. Place on greased cookie sheets. (They won’t spread much, so you can put them pretty close together on the cookie sheet.) Bake at 350° for 8 minutes, or until edges are golden.