Friday, November 18, 2005

Skillet Cookies

Skillet Cookies

My family's traditional Christmas cookie.

1 stick butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 package chopped dates
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 box Rice Crispy cereal
1 cup chopped pecans

Melt butter in a large iron skillet over medium heat. Cream eggs and sugar together. Pour into skillet with chopped dates. Stir constantly until caramelized mixture is a dark brown. Add vanilla. Remove from heat and whip by hand until cooler (5 minutes). Add rice crispies and nuts to mixture then form small balls and roll in powdered sugar or coconut.

I have been making these cookies for as long as I have memories. In my mind's eye, I can see my chubby little four-year old hands in front of me, covered in stickiness and powdered sugar. I can feel the heat of the mixture of crisped rice, nuts and caramelized dates and creamed sugar.

I hear my mother's voice. "Be's still hot!" or "You're rolling them too big!"

I liked to roll them big. That was because later, after they were chilled, I would slyly select the largest ones when they were offered. Munching into that cold sweet crispiness and getting powdered sugar all over my shirt. My face. I loved it when my mother would look exasperated and dust me off with her hand.

"I swear!....," she would say.

The recipe was lost for a time. My sister had gotten rid of the cookbook that the recipe was in. I was devastated when I realized this particular book was gone. I thought I was being fair by leaving the sugar-stained tattered book behind for her. She did not see the old book as the pearl of great price that I did. My brother and sister have often been bemused by the things I deem valuable, but I think they are coming around to my way of thinking. History is important. Even the history of one family is important.

I reconstructed the recipe from my memories. My dead mother whispering in my ear the entire time. She often whispers to me.

I make them alone now to send to my family and friends. It doesn't seem right somehow, they are the sort of treat that really needs tiny sticky hands to form the warm melange into the little sugar-covered balls. If you have such little fingers in your house, you may want to give these a try.