Prized objects inspire treats
November 30, 1995
By Pamela Cressey
An artifact cookie decorated last year during the annual Alexandria Archaeology workshop. The cookie was inspired by a hand-painted pearlware tankard made in England between 1780 and 1800.
My childhood memories of the December holiday season focus on the traditional family preparations. Every year my dad and I ventured out into the "cold" December night in Glendale, California with one mission in mind: bring home the best tree at the cheapest price. We drove from one tree lot to another looking for that perfect combination. Inevitably we would return to Cheap Charlie's tree lot for the best buy, and come home triumphant. It is still difficult for me to go to only one place for a tree!
So too are my memories filled with cookie baking. The cookies were great, of course, but the real joy was in the whole ritual of cooking. My mother would pull out the prized recipes from the ancient box and tell me about the relative or friend who passed them on to her. Every year the same cookies were rolled, cut, sprinkled, baked and put in holiday tins. Each kind was time consuming and had its own baking day. I still have the recipe box as well as the special cookie instructions in my mom's handwriting. I must go through at least some of this baking ritual to transport myself beyond time and place to the spirit of unity evoked by the holiday season.
Everyone is invited to share with the City archaeologists and volunteers our cookie tradition. The Second Annual Cookie Artifact Decorating Workshop will be held in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, 3rd floor of the Torpedo Factory Art Center on Saturday, December 2 from 12 to 4 p.m. Come down to Old Town for the Scottish Walk parade and then come into our museum and laboratory.
Everyone is invited to see artifacts excavated in Alexandria and decorate cookies cut in artifact shapes. You will be able to paint historically accurate or creative designs on your cookie, which comes ready to hang on tree, window or wall. You will also receive a description of the real artifact and where it was excavated in Alexandria. Last year more than 500 people decorated cookies. This is a way to have a little bit of Alexandria's past in your own home.
Children of all ages really enjoy cookie decorating and have a rare opportunity to see the actual artifact up close. I was amazed to see how long preschoolers took to perfect their artifact cookies. They understood that these cookies were not for eating.
To start a tradition in your family, make your own dough and cookie patterns to match your heirlooms, pets, and people. Mix 4 cups flour with 1 cup salt and 1 ½ cup water. Roll out the dough and cut around the cardboard patterns you design. Bake at 275 degrees for 1 1/4 hour. Be sure and make a hole in the top before baking, for threading ribbon or yarn and your personal note. After cooling, draw designs with bright marker pens. For a tasty cookie: use regular sugar dough; cut out your patterns; and decorate with edible frosting and sprinkles. They make wonderful tree decorations and gifts for teachers and friends.