No More Mr. Nice Pie

No More Mr. Nice Pie
Drawing by Retsu Takahashi

Sunday, December 22, 2013

You Can't Catch Me! I'm the Gingerbread Boy

Truth be told, I arrived rather late to the Christmas Cookie/Eggnog party.  The closest our kitchen came to actual holiday cookie baking wasn't a holiday at all.  It knew no specific season, it was simply heralded by Jessie's aluminum Mirro cookie press. Technically, I suppose, you could consider this Christmas cookie-ing, or Spritz cookie-making.  In a somewhat child-like disconnect, it reminded me just a bit of my Play-do Fun Factory, and was infinitely more fun than Mr. Potato Head. The chocolate and vanilla doughs were quick and easy to mix. The challenge was selecting just the right cookie disc. I agonized over the myriad of choices and always gravitated towards the dog.  Maybe because he shared just the slightest resemblance to the dog in Monopoly.  In hindsight, I must admit that somewhere between going into the oven and twelve minutes later exiting the oven, the poor doggie looked nothing like the picture in the Mirro-Cookie press recipe pamphlet.  And although Spritz cookies were apparently quite comfortable gussied up for the Christmas holidays, there was nary a green or red sprinkle to be found in our kitchen.
My first foray into the professional Christmas cookie leagues began when I was hired to work at Williams-Sonoma.  I had restaurant experience which plummeted me to the front of the demonstration line.  Whenever a new product or technique was center stage, I had the misfortune of being selected to "demo" the product.  Unpacking cases of holiday cookie decorating kits, I was knee-deep in sugars, icings and sprinkles boasting the titles, "Christmas Red" and "Evergreen Green."  To say this was baptism by fire, sums it up rather accurately.  There I stood at the demo counter, brandishing my piping bags.  Digging deep into my Ithaca College acting skills, I promised the decorating novices that they, too, could boast their own cookie glitterati that very holiday season.  I piped red bow ties on terrified gingerbread boys.  I sprinkled crystal sanding sugars with great abandon, temporarily blinding a young woman leaning in a little too closely.  My regulation green Williams-Sonoma employee apron was a Jackson Pollack canvas of royal icings. I sent my audience on their way clutching their decorating kits with as much fervor as mother's had clutched TickleMeElmos a few years prior.  My manager deemed this a very successful afternoon.  I clocked out and ran for my life.
With every series of culinary jobs that followed, Christmas holidays found me armed with piping bags and literally hundreds of naked cookies waiting to be costumed. I was decorating angels on the wing flying perilously close to red-nosed reindeer.  Gingerbread families and the houses in which they lived fell victim to mistrals of confectioners sugar.  I now understood why Santa and Mrs. Claus had a penchant for eggnog.

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