Hey, November. Uh, when did you get here? It’s the 30th? How did I miss the whole month? And why does the month feel like a year? This is the longest shortest year in human history. Perhaps it’s the pandemic travel plans that involve making a circuit between the home office and the bathroom with special trips to the outside world for supplies. Just thought if I was going to be stuck in a home, fearful of seeing humanoids during my stealth runs to forage for food, I’d have stolen a nice compound during this zombie apocalypse already. I mean, there should be some upsides. But I digress.
By now I’ve started the gift making and the targeted mailing dates for Christmas. Instead, I’m currently wrapped in a blanket, avoiding work for a bit (lies, a lot). Usually, there’s a ton of cookies and other things in various stages of prep to packaging.
Instead, it’s just work. I resolve to put this weird year to the side and get some holiday on. Get out the antlers, dust myself with flour! No reason to not hold a space for seasonal joy no matter what. What’s on your Christmas list? Any fave treats we should know about? I’ve got a new recipe I want to develop – fingers crossed it’s edible. This is an open, food porn themed thread. No polly, no tics, no diets. Have at it, Jackals. Also, wonderful to see your lovely faces on the Thanksgiving zoom! Let’s do it again, shall we?
Hime is so cute! ?????
It’s unfortunate I can’t taste any of this stuff! :)
Dorothy A. Winsor
Anyone have suggestions for a place I can order good gluten free treats to send as a Christmas present? A friend has been diagnosed as celiac.
I usually send goodies from Ackroyd’s Scottish bakery in Detroit. The scones are to die for.
We’re going to attempt a stollen — marzipan and all — I should say ARE attempting as the fruits are drowning in rum as of last night. The trad. xmas bread is houska, and that’ll probably sneak in at the last minute (because) but no rum-addled raisins or marzipan there.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Not baked goods, but my local chocolatier has gluten fee gift box options. Link. I am trying to support my local small businesses as much as possible this holiday season.
@scav: I love stollen and its related variants. My grandmother made nut rolls to die for. My family doesn’t really like sweets, a fact that I still find to be totally confounding for Christmas baking purposes. I usually try a few new standout recipes every year, and then freeze what I can’t give away or eat after a few days to have into the new year.
We had a nice Thanksgiving with our COVID pod and plan the same for Christmas, but with Italian food this time, maybe with a chateaubriand. We’re having the pastas catered and my sister will roast the beef.
Funny about baking cookies…I am generally not a baker, but one of my other sisters called me the other day for my mother’s candy cane cookie recipe, as she and her college sophomore daughter are going to go all out with Christmas cookies this year, due to the time they have from the pandemic and the niece’s just discovered interest in cooking and baking. So, since I inherited most of my mom’s cookbooks, I pulled out her old (has to be from the early 60s) Betty Crocker Cookie Cook Book. My sister and I both remembered her making modifications to many of the recipes in the book and, sure enough, she had modified the recipe. My mom was a terrific baker and, as I talked to my sister and niece, I paged through the book and noted how many modifications she had made over the years, writing it in the margins with arrows and carets. It made us really miss our mom and now we both are going to work on some Christmas cookies (her more than me!). It also sent my sister to the internet to find a copy of the book, by some miracle. Which she did! Same edition, too! She’s going to call me when it arrives and I’m going to give her all the notations so she can have them all, too.
I’m a bit of a Christmas grinch in a normal year, so it’s kind of nice to feel warmly toward the season in this awful, awful year.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: You have any German-ish local sources? Zimtsterne are a gluten free decadent-enhanced option. Problem is, I made ours (that should be in future tense too. They’re not difficult, just sticky) so I’m useless for online sources.
You need to share the recipes for the cookies. They look good!
Oh, those look luscious! What are the thumbprints with little bits of crust (?) on top of the filling? Thumbprints, for some reason, are my fave cookie. Grew up eating the surrounding cookie part first, then the filling :)
I can’t eat that sort of thing anymore, but can still imagine what they taste like.
And: oh so beautiful kitteh!
We live in a somewhat upscale suburban neighborhood and it feels like people are putting up more and grander Christmas displays this year. It seems like there are more houses on my block with Christmas lights than previous years, and some with more elaborate displays.
I wonder if this is just my imagination or if this is part of a larger trend this year due to Covid. What are you guys seeing? I know for me it felt more important to get the lights up this year than in previous years.
We put our lights up a week before Thanksgiving! We can’t travel, so we’re getting our Xmas on early. 2020 is the year to violate norms!
ETA: what Kent said, lots of lights already up in my burb and we dropped some $ on new lights as well!
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Barbara: Those are beautiful, Barbara. And they’re unusual, which is nice in a gift.
@scav: If I got out of my chair, I could bake some things, I guess. And she wouldn’t have those. I never heard of them.
More and earlier decorations on homes around here, too. We noted it on our way home from Thanksgiving with our pod. We think it’s COVID. People have a bit of extra time on their hands and, I think, are determined to have some sort of holiday cheer.
Kitteh. Is. SPECTACULAR.
I am trying to feel Christmassy (and it’s my 11th wedding anniversary here in two weeks), but meh. If it wasn’t for the Spawns, I’d lay around in pajamas and not do anything special.
I think we are gonna do cookies next weekend. Maybe get the tree as well.
This year I was too busy to do anything for Diwali so I am going to make my Diwali goodies along with Christmas stuff for Christmas
*like a trail mix, salty, crunchy and sometimes sweet
Didn’t stumble across this selection until after Big Breasted Bird Day, however some of the variations on more common prep may interest folk enough to give one or two a go for upcoming holidays.
?Trump trash in prison We all want it?
Antlers pic or it didn’t happen :)
Now I see it…time to go back to the eyedoctor.
@Kent: In AZ, our neighborhood was very middle class, and the light displays were epic. Also inflatables are popular. We had two of those projectors, path lights, and icicle lights along the main gable of our house, and we were on the less-lit-up side. Here in PA, they seem much more restrained in the outdoor decorating. I ordered a battery-operated LED garland for the front door and that’s it. I have no exterior power outlets. That may be part of it.
Fave treat: Maker’s Mark Bourbon Balls. We bought them at the gift shop after our distillery tour a few years ago and I just found the recipe online. I’m not a baker at all but I’m going to have to try to make these.
ETA: From the recipe, there’s no baking involved. This caveat is at the bottom:
Since bourbon balls are not cooked in any way, the Maker’s Mark in them is fully active. Difficult as it may be, don’t eat too many and do keep these out of the reach of children.
Every year I make Alton Brown’s free- range fruit cake, which I love. Great for breakfast. Usually make enough to give away, but think I’ll just make one for the household this year. Was thinking of getting a foldable ping pong table for the household this year, but the one on sale at Costco this week is really expensive! May need to shop around. Got a set of left-handed kitchen tools plus a beginning cookbook for the granddaughter.
@Kent: I see it too. Shutdowns, work-from-home, kids at home, allow more time to decorate, and it’s obviously self-therapy to help deal with the tRumpPlague, and maybe extra celebration of the election outcome.
ETA: I don’t know if it was planned or if the lightsource got turned around but last year a neighbor had his ‘laser’ dot xmas lights pointed into bare deciduous trees in his yard. Especially as they swayed in the wind I thought they looked really nice!
The best Christmas cookies: Orange Nut Balls
Mix: 2 c. all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar, grated rind of an orange, a pinch of salt
Process in the food processor until very finely ground: 2 cups pecans. Add to flour mixture along with 1 cup soft butter and mix well. Chill in the fridge for a while, then roll into 1/2 inch balls and bake at 350F until beginning to brown on the bottom, about 40 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar.
I use vegan butter (preferably Miyoko’s) since I don’t eat dairy.
I don’t know what makes them Christmas cookies, but my mom always made them at Christmas time. Now I make them every year, they are so good and easy to make.
longest month of my life for the first 8-10 days. After that, shortest month ever – compared to the agony of living thru the longest month ever starting November 9, 2017, each month exponentially longer than the preceding month, for the last 4 years. I’m experiencing time in a more normal way for the first time in a long time. It will seem weird until COVID is completely over, but compared to the Trump plague years, not weird at all.
@Suzanne: Highly dependent on the area! One year we drove from State College where SIL lives to Pittsburgh on Route 22 and I couldn’t believe how many opulent displays of Christmas lighting I saw along the way. But my parents and their neighbors were always pretty restrained. People definitely don’t have as much storage space for holiday decorations in older houses in urban areas.
@evap: Nice. Kind of a variant on Mexican wedding cookies. I am always looking for recipes that can be adapted for vegans.
@mrmoshpotato: Oops. Decided to sing before reading.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Also: the Belgian Chocolatier in Evanston.
Laughter is the best respite.
@Barbara: Yeah, I’m sure the suburbs are a bit showier. We have lots of storage space, tho! All these houses have basements! Much of the west has slab-on-grade and very few houses have useable attics, so storage space is reduced there. I think it’s more of a cultural thing.
I don’t do Christmas cookies except for one batch for an office cookie exchange, and since office is closed, no exchange. Also no Christmas Eve open house as usual, but I’m making the cakes I serve there and sending them to friends and family. Lots of chocolate Guinness cupcakes and rum cake baking in my near future.
Oh, yeah, tons of early Christmas decorations in my neighborhood too.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Can’t speak to any of these bakeries but I can recommend the website so would be inclined to trust this list.
@NotMax: Oh Spain on a Fork! Yummo!
Maybe I’ll make my grandmother’s pecan sticky buns if I’m feeling ambitious. They’re not difficult, just very caloric. (Funny story: my mom’s neighbor tried to make them, but they weren’t quite the same. I was rummaging through my mom’s recipes and my grandmother had used parts of two different recipes, which I realized because I had made them at one point.)
Dorothy A. Winsor
@narya: That has some cute Christmas gifts. Thanks.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Yarrow: Oh that looks like a treasure! Thank you!
@geg6: I received this cookie book for Christmas from my next door neighbor when it came out. It’s in sad shape so when I saw a barely used one at a garage sale, I snapped it up. The photo of many kinds of cookies and soda pop, with a note from “Mom” to clean up, spoke of teenage crowds and popularity that I, growing up in a rather somber Mennonite home, could barely comprehend. But I loved the fantasy.
I so feel this! The early part of November before, during and immediately after the election felt painfully slow. The second half has flown by.
We have a newly minted 4 year old in our household, so I plan to throw myself into all things holiday. Per her request, outdoor lights went up weeks ago. A tree will be obtained shortly and decorated. I am looking for some arts and crafts suitable for keeping little hands busy in addition to planning out some cookie baking/decorating fun.
I have all of the candied fruits and nuts needed to make my great-grandmother’s “fruitcake cookie” recipe. Despite the negative connotation of fruitcake, these are actually really tasty. Candied pineapple and cherries (red and green), chopped dates, pecans all mixed in with a brown-sugar cookie dough similar to soft chocolate-chip cookies.
Thank you for the wonderful trifecta of antlers, baked goods, and Hime!
@numfar: It’s right there!
And now the wind has brought down our lighted deer and outdoor tree. Crazy windy today!
Yep. We don’t have basements or attics for storage here in the Pacific Northwest suburbs, but we have giant 3-car garages, and I have massive wall-mounted storage shelves that hold all the totes full of holiday decorations
There are so many self-storage businesses around here that I expect some people also use storage lockers for holiday stuff as well. Also, in my neighborhood I think a growing number of residents use commercial lighting services to install their lights each year and then store them when not in use. There are way too many professional-looking installs that are too good for the average homeowner to have done themselves. Especially the perfect rows of lights on really high gables and roofs. Those are not easy to do.
Spawn the Youngest has a firm grip on my left earlobe. Simultaneously adorable and annoying.
One cookie thats usually a hit with everybody . Walnut Tassies. They’re like tiny, gooey nut pies.
@grandmaBear: If you have a Play It Again Sports, you might find a gently used one there. It’s always my first stop for pricey sports stuff people are likely to tire of…
@Kent: Christmas decorations in my area started going up before Halloween. The day after Halloween the rest of the people started putting up Christmas decorations. Definitely earlier and more than in non-Covid times. It was weird to see Christmas trees up in windows on November 1st but also kind of nice because we all need a bit of cheer.
@Kent: I have never used one of the commercial lighting companies, but I am tempted. Some of our neighbors in AZ had permanent Christmas lighting installed and wired in.
Paper chains? We used to make both regular and Swedish (lots of info on Google, if needed).
PSA for whomever is cutting the chain pieces: it’s possible to give yourself a big ol’ repetitive stress injury if you do too many at one time. Guess how I know. :)
@H.E.Wolf: Great idea! I remember making those as a kid. And she is at the age where she loves a chance to get out her safety scissors and mess with Scotch tape.
I grew up in rather somber Mennonite home as well. But my mother, grandmother, and aunts most certainly cooked up and baked up a storm every year for the holidays. Mostly for church events though. My parents never went in for things like Christmas light displays. Colored Christmas lights would have been WAY WAY too “worldly”. But we did go to the woods and cut our own Christmas tree every year and had lots of homemade decorations, candles, and such in the house. And there were endless church events all December with lots and lots of organized youth stuff like caroling, hay rides, and such.
Perhaps the Mennonite culture I grew up in was more mainstream and less austere than yours. But I do remember my mother in the 70s bemoaning all the commercialization that was taking the “Christ” out of Christmas.
Probably just in your area. If you headed a bit further into the ‘burbs, you’d see plenty of Griswold-type decorations. And out here just a bit further, it’s pretty much de rigor to have at least one Griswold house per block. My sister and BIL, for instance. With their solar, it’s a cheap indulgence.
@CaseyL: Not thumbprints. mini-cupcakes with a berry filling waiting for the frosting.
One thing I particularly like about his cooking vids is they provide among the clearest instructions one can come across on what, how and when to do each step, both visually and aurally.
At whatever indeterminate time in the future when group get-togethers are acceptable again and I’m tasked with bringing food I plan on trying out preparing his mushroom paella.
We make one tray of peppernuts after Thanksgiving dishes are cleaned up. Then make tray after tray through the season.
My mom always made cinnamon rolls, arranged to rise touching each other, making the shape of a Christmas tree, on Christmas Eve Day. She frosted them, then decorated them with cut up red and green gumdrops. After Christmas Eve service, we would deliver them to our two closest neighbors by first caroling them on their doorstep.
My husband has perfected his cinnamon rolls, so we will try this this year and deliver them to my son and his family, standing way back as they open the door for them. I doubt my atheist husband will join me in song, but at least we’ll get a glimpse if the granddaughters on Christmas Eve.
Oxy-acetylene welding torch? Angle grinder? Jarts?
I have so many good memories of helping my mom make cookies from that book for the holidays. She would make dozens and dozens of them over the course of October, November and December, freezing them until Christmas Eve. I don’t know how she did it. She worked full-time as a newspaper reporter, my dad worked shifts so she was the only parent most of the time, there were six of us kids…and she baked at least several dozen of several dozen types of cookies. She was amazing in a way I couldn’t appreciate at the time.
Oh, hey, Diaper Don and the Traitor Tots. Tick tock…
@Kent: I need to bring out my yearly dad story about this. I once asked why we celebrated christmas if we didn’t believe in christ (we’re a bunch of atheists), and he replied, “We celebrate Halloween and we don’t believe in ghosts; why give up a perfectly good holiday?” I suspect he & my mom were trying to figure out how to have us not stand out TOO much from our small-town (very catholic) peers . . .
I have an easy 4-ingredient recipe for a very tasty low-carb pudding-cheese pie which I intend to make for the immediate family’s Xmas dessert. Problem being one of the 4 is a graham-cracker-crumb crust that defeats the purpose for us diabetics.
Anyone able to pass along a reasonably easy recipe (or link to same) for a reasonably low-carb pie crust? Classic or graham-cracker-crumb style, n’importe quoi. Thx in advance.
Very disappointed by the First Lady’s normal-seeming Christmas display. I think I really honestly preferred the previous years that looked like Opeth album covers. Without the weirdness, there’s no point.
We have a very tall 2-story house on a hillside which makes parts of it 3-stories high and the slopes means it is pretty difficult to safely get ladders up to the really high spots. So every year I start to wonder if I’m getting too old to be doing lights up high. At some point soon we are either going to have to go for the indoor approach of putting lighted candle displays and wreaths in the windows, or just hiring a company to come do it. We live in a more modest part of an upscale area because we don’t have views. The houses a block or two up the hill from us that have views of the city skyline and mountains are larger and double the price and I have seen companies come in with cherry picker lifts installing lights on the rooflines of those houses. Must cost a fortune.
Around here land is expensive and scarce so houses go higher rather than wider like in Arizona.
@NotMax: How much saffron is in his mushroom paella? He does love his saffron.
Your desserts look great! So does the cat, naturally.
Dorothy A. Winsor:
Most — but not all — ice cream is gluten-free. Depends on what is added: strawberry chunks yes, cookies and cream, no.
A friend sent me a sampler box of nine different gourmet gelato flavors (each dixie-cup sized) in honor of my recent gum surgery and it was memorable.
You could look into shipping Jeni’s and your friend could have a freezer just like Nancy Pelosi’s.
Need to look up info on what kinds of baked cookies can be safely frozen without loss of texture and flavor. I know cookie dough can be easily frozen.
Two words: Play Doh. If not inclined to go shopping for the commercial version, there are alternatives.
6 Homemade Playdough Recipes
LOL. Any others remember those wood-burning craft kids for kiddies?
(What were they thinking?)
@Suzanne: Okay, so in my book nothing says Christmas like risking your life and limb by climbing on the roof to install the lights! Seriously, we used the basement as a play space and houses in my division had teeny tiny attics. I don’t remember any killer displays in my subdivision, but there used to be a festival of lights at Hartwood Acres that, I believe, was discontinued after they lost their sponsorship.
A lot of people in PA are just old.
@Kent: Kent, what brand of Mennonite were you? We were Russian Mennonite Brethren and a lot of our austerity was also because there was little cash around. My dad grew up in Russia, and if you know about MCC, it was founded to send food to what is now Ukraine 100 years ago during that famine. They saved my father’s life, but were too late to save the first born cousin (I’m the youngest). Abraham died of starvation in tge famine.
My parents were rich in skills and generous with what they could make, grow, or do. The woman who gave me the cooky book gave my sisters and me gifts because my parents gave few gifts. My neighbor was a friend all my life (she taught me to read) and I’m still friends with her daughter, and now her grandson.
I’m looking forward to the neighbors ersatz holiday display – baby jesus in the manger, frosty and some reindeer adoring amongst the light up trees.
I’ve been craving hot chocolate with and without chilies. Shuffles off to look for the fat stack of mexican chocolate tablets at the back of the cupboard. Back in my glamorous working at the grocery store years, a lovely older couple brought me a slim box of home made bourbon balls. They were criminally good- just rich and tipsy, but it was the kind thoughtfulness that lingers. I youtubed the 1966 version of A Christmas Memory the other night. Tears were jerked. I’m ready for holiday baking and making meyer lemon marmalade from the backyard bounty.
Oh, we are atheists too. Or at least non-religious. My wife grew up in an uber-Catholic home in Santiago Chile and I grew up in a serious Mennonite home. From my point of view, all religion is a social construct so why not celebrate all these holiday traditions? Not just the Christian ones, but all the fun ones. After all, they are all just different expressions of humanity. Christmas came from the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia, which no doubt had earlier origins. It’s all good fun and cheer. What’s not to like?
I have a Christmas nut stollen recipe, with my own tweaks to a Gourmet Magazine article from Dec. 1978. It’s a bit long but makes several fabulous loaves, would it be OK to post? I’ve made it nearly every year for the last 40–yikes.
I used to to dozens of cookies but lately found it to be too much . I do my stollen, plus either small bundt cakes in a variety of flavors, or different kinds of thumbprint cookies, plus a couple of dessert sauces or jams. Keeping to one kind of thing instead of four different breads and a dozen different kinds of cookies. For sauces, Maida Heatter’s Rum Mocha chocolate sauce from her book of (Great Chocolate Desserts); caramel cider sauce; mocha caramel sauce. The sauces are easy to make on the stove top, gluten free, and will keep for weeks in the fridge.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Not pre-made, but King Arthur Flour has gluten free mixes. I have a recipe book for German baking and she has several of the Zimsterne and other flourless cookie/confections, I’d be happy to share if you want. Meringue cookies of course. Nut brittles. Truffles easy to make at home. Desserts are my thing, could you guess?
@ruemara: *sigh* still very yummy – and delightfully messy.
@Uncle Cosmo: Not a recipe, per se, but my favorite baking company (King Arthur) just introduced a “keto” flour that apparently can be used measure-for-measure like regular flour.
@sixthdoctor: I think they are much prettier than in years past. I especially approve of the use of roses (likely silk or papier mache) to decorate the trees.
@narya: Instead of “Merry Xmas” or “Happy Holidays” I like to go with
which is of course what it’s actually all about. And then inform nasty Xtians that
The calendar of one of my former coworkers, a devout Christian, used to note 25 December as JESUS’ BIRTHDAY (OBSERVED), which struck me as fair enough.
Short of going back to watch the video I don’t recall. Sometimes to mix things up I’ll add saffron to the challah loaf made in the super duper bread machine, in the form of a small amount (unsweetened, unspiced otherwise) saffron ‘tea’ in place of some of the water.
@NotMax: Spain on your fork. I’m there.
No vampires at this gentleman’s table.
@mali muso: Thanks! Looks well worth investigating!
@sixthdoctor: Blackwater Park!
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Detroiter here. I can vouch for Aykroyd’s. Amazing place.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Ohio Mom: People ship gelato? I assume there’s dry ice or something. She told me she can eat ice cream, so maybe a sampler would be good.
@Barbara: Also, here in PA, there are definitely more of the older mainline denominations that tend to be a bit more restrained in presentation. The neighborhood I grew up in on Long Island was the same way. Much of the west has megachurch culture, which tends to be a bit more into the big displays. In areas with lots of LDS people, the grounds of the LDS Temple will often be very dramatically lit for the public to walk around.
@LuciaMia: I have frozen virtually any kind of cookie imaginable except meringues. The butter preserves them just fine. Jam filled may dry out a bit. Freeze on a cookie sheet then pack air tight. They thaw out really fast if you need to do a quick quality check ;-)
@Uncle Cosmo: Your best bet is a nut-based crust. Here’s one from the Clean Diet cookbook:
Process in a food processor: 1 cup pecans, 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, 4 tsp oil, 8 pitted dates. Press the mixture into a pie pan. No baking needed.
I’m not sure if dates are okay, but I believe they are a low-glycemic sweetener. You could probably cut back on the number of dates.
Wearing antlers for Christmas baking! I am in awe.
We were of the Swiss/German Mennonite tribe. What would have been called the “Old Mennonite Church” before they joined with the Russian Mennonite General Conference in the 1990s or whenever that happened. My mother was from the Mennonite/Amish area of Belleville PA where the family farm goes back to the pre-civil war era and my Menno ancestors settled in PA in the late 1600s and early 1700s during the time of William Penn, mostly as refugees from the religious wars in the Palatinate during that time. So we’ve been Americans from the Pennsylvania Dutch Menno roots since at least the 1720s or so. My father’s tribe comes from the same old Pennsylvania Dutch roots but migrated west to Ohio in the early 1800s and then on to Oregon around 1900 where they founded some of the Mennonite churches and schools in the Willamette Valley.
So I have Menno kin scattered all over PA and OR. Mostly these days the educated folks like myself who have migrated to the cities have drifted away from the religion. And the rural folks seem to have gone in the other direction, doubling down on the conservative fundamentalist doctrine and anti-LGBT bigotry and have left and joined more conservative evangelical churches when the local Menno churches haven’t proven to be sufficiently bigoted for their tastes.
I do also have Amish and very conservative old-order Menno second cousins and such. But they have pretty much cut off contact with us heathen relatives.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: I sent Jeni’s ice cream to someone several years ago for a special birthday. They ship in dry ice. I think it’s designed to last 3 days. You do need to make sure they’ll be there and not away from home for a week or something. It was a big hit. They have all sorts of selections. Fantastic ice cream but super expensive.
My mom froze just about everything, leaving off decorations or powdered sugar on snowballs or the jam on thumbprints, except the really cake-like cookies. You can freeze creme horns (we called them lady fingers) for months and they are awesome. Same with snickerdoodles and snowballs.
@Kent: There was a story in I think yesterdays WaPo that retailers were reporting much bigger Christmas decorations sales than in the past attributed to Covid stuck at homeness.
Dimly recall that elaborate, gaudy or garish outdoor displays were not a thing in the neighborhoods where resided as a sprout. The most daring – and that rarely encountered – was a single string of colored lights outlining the front door.
Kind of interesting short history behind one type of decoration.
Does anyone have an idea for a nice gift for someone who likes gardening — something I can order to be shipped, around $100?
Gin & Tonic
I just read on WaPo that there’s a proposal to prioritize the COVID vaccine for obese people, so just in time for Christmas baking/sweets season. Hurry up and pack on the pounds, and you may get to the head of the vaccine line.
I am getting a sugar high just from reading all the comments here!
Growing up, my family and relatives were never big on cookies and small sweets, but usually did a re-do of cakes, pies and cobblers that were laid out for Thanksgiving.
One holiday season a friend and I went up to Solvang, a kinda Danish village north of Los Angeles. Absolutely pigged out on the endless variety of pastries.
Often my favorite Christmas traditions is to go to a nice restaurant, often Chinese, on Christmas day, and then go to the movies. I will miss this during this time of Covid.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Brachiator: Somewhere along the line, movies on Christmas Day became the thing to do. In normal times, people are probably about fed up with their house guests about then.
@zhena gogolia: There are tons of websites out there with ideas. Check Gardener’s Supply. At that price point you might want to know more about what kind of gardener they are. Ornamentals? Natives? Pollinators? Vegetables and/or fruit? I mean $100 could buy a ton of cool tools or a zillion seeds or a potting table or all sorts of things. Do you know what they like or might need? Maybe a gift card to a local garden center?
I have the same issue with a couple of friends. Have you tried making savory rugelach? King Arthur Flour’s web site has some good recipes.
@Uncle Cosmo: Boss at previous job had been a brother (Benedictine? Franciscan? I forget) but had left the church, once he realized he was gay. He and I were talking about the repurposed pagan occasions and a coworker–raised catholic–was shocked to hear me say it. She turned to Boss, who confirmed it, of course, and was completely taken aback. I love the (observed) addition; that’s very funny.
Also, around here, there is a huge tradition of cookies. I don’t know why, but even our local restaurant chains get in on the action. The best known cookie tradition in Western PA is the wedding cookie table:
My mom was a cookie table baking beast. You had no choice but to freeze them because it takes many, many months to bake enough for a traditional wedding around here. And in my circles, you DO NOT EVER BUY BAKERY COOKIES for a wedding cookie table.
@Dorothy A. Winsor:
Also I am not religious and have a lot of nnon-religious and non-Christian friends. We would still celebrate the holiday, and even wish one another Merry Christmas, but wouldn’t necessarily have house guests over.
@geg6: I love the idea of a cookie table! My own favorite memory of a sweet table at a wedding was my dear friend’s periodic table of cupcakes for her wedding cake (she was an astrophysicist).
@Yarrow: I’m clueless about what she needs. I’m looking at a lavender wreath from White Flower Farms.
Here, everyone was putting up their lights this past weekend. Probably the last nice weather until spring.
I’ve noticed more houses are decorated with lights this year. I think it’s an attempt to jolly themselves up after this crap year.
The tradition includes making sure each guest gets a dozen cookies to take home. You provide little bags or boxes and they put their own mix of a dozen in. It’s a lovely wedding favor.
@germy: I laughed out loud and shared the tweet with my family and friends.
@geg6: That is BONKERS.
Now I want to get invited to a wedding here.
That might be a good question to send to Anne Laurie, and she can build next Sunday’s Garden Morning Open Thread around it.
My relatives from all over the country says the weddings here are the very best and most fun of anywhere in the country. Make friends with marriage-age people as fast as you can.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: For many years the only places that might stay open on Christmas Day were the Chinese restaurants and movie theaters. For a couple of New Years Eves recently I joined my best friend & his sister for supper at a Szechuan eatery and a late flick. We all joked about “doing Jewish Christmas a week late.”
I also agree with the person who suggested a gift card to a garden center or the person’s favorite nursery.
A tip on shipping. With more people staying at home and some places with renewed lockdown orders, people are having more stuff shipped. Families not getting together may also result in an increase of gifts being delivered.
In short, there is a strain on the shipping networks. Trump’s attempt to mess with the post office and delay mail ballots may be having a residual impact as well.
So if you are shipping stuff, allow a little extra time.
Graeter’s now has a whole line of vegan ice cream. It’s probably gluten-free too, like most of their flavors.
For sure. On the other hand, I read somewhere that it is much more ecologically efficient to have UPS and Amazon vans out making door to door deliveries in mass, than to have every suburbanite drive to the mall to buy one-off items for gifts and such. I expect one Amazon van delivering 100 packages is more energy efficient and causes much less traffic congestion than 100 separate SUVs driving to the mall.
@geg6: We had a discussion about this previously. I must have attended more than a dozen weddings in Western PA beginning in the late 60s all the way up until 10 years ago and it wasn’t until the late 90s that anybody ever had a cookie table, which was my sister, at the behest of a friend of hers. The cookies were all homemade. My mother said that it wasn’t a German tradition, because she could not recall anyone in her generation doing it either. And we had a few professional bakers in the family! I assume it started as an Italian tradition.
@LuciaMia: Ooooh, that reminds me! I’ve made these Tiny Tim cranberry-nut tarts several times. They’re a bit of a pain in the ass but so, so good.
Layperson’s random thought: maybe a variety pack selection to cover different tasks? Selection of what, you ask? See #1 and #2.
According to a cooking show named “Ciao Italia,” cookie tables are an Italian tradition.
@debbie: That makes sense, since, in my view Italian cookies are the best cookies.
It may be an Italian thing, but I’ve never been to a wedding here in my 62 years where there wasn’t a cookie table. That includes Serbian, Greek Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox and Irish Catholics weddings. It was great when it’s a “mixed” marriage where you get cookies from two or more traditions.
@Kent: Yep, I’m done with ladders and the boss approves. I even sold my Little Giant last week so I’m down to one 14″ extension ladder and it’s going to have to be a real emergency for me to get on it. We had a bunch of tree work done last week and they left a bunch of branches in a gutter that is 20ft up and they are coming back to fix it.
Ceci n est pas mon nym
@Kent: I noticed that. Noticed it starting with Halloween. We have some people who always do pretty elaborate Halloween displays, but this year there were more, and bigger, and earlier.
I see the same thing happening with Christmas displays.
@Uncle Cosmo: I love Chinese theaters!
Yeah, that was my first guess. Thanks.
I did some googling & discovered that “each dried, pitted date (about 24 grams) contains 67 calories and roughly 18 grams of carbs,” so that recipe entails 108 grams of carbs per pie crust. Supermarket pre-made crumb crusts weigh in at 96 grams of carbs. Since I’m not much of a baker, and my oven is on the fritz, (ETA: It also seems like that crust is awfully sweet & might overwhelm whatever I poured into it.)
I’ll probably go the prebought route – I can always, myself, just not eat the crust – but I’ll keep the recipe filed for the future..
I’ve been to a few Central PA weddings for my German Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite clan and I never heard of cookie tables there. Or even ever saw cookies served at a wedding. It was always the regular stuff like bowls of dinner mints and candied nuts. That sort of thing.
@geg6: I just think it’s bizarre, that’s all. I have 30 first cousins and numerous friends and no one ever had cookies at their weddings until 1997.
This was one of the keys to conversion. You go into a place, relabel a date that the locals already know and slap a coat of Christianity over pagan deities and customs and you got yourself a brand spanking “new” holiday or Saint’s day.
Also you can have a lot of fun digging into what Christmas trees, yule logs and Easter bunnies have to do with Christian holidays.
ETA. Of course this is not just a Christian thing. Many religions are built on earlier traditions and even borrowed from competing traditions.
Time was there was a stretch along 9th Avenue in NYC with what seemed like one Italian bakery after another.
One could conceivably pack on a few pounds simply by walking that 2 or 3 blocks and sniffing along the way.
It’s only a thing in Western PA, from what I can tell. Some people from here moved to eastern Ohio and I’ve seen a few there over the last couple of years.
I considered a gift certificate, but it’s an office gift to our administrative assistant, so I thought that was too impersonal. I ordered a lavender wreath (it’s very beautiful in the picture), so I hope it will get there in time. They estimated second week of Dec. If it doesn’t get there in time, she’ll understand. She’s not a prima donna.
It may just have been a thing in mill towns where so many different ethnic traditions all came together. All I know is that cookie tables were a thing here in Beaver County back to before I was even born. We have a picture of the one from my parents’ wedding back in the late 1940s. And my dad’s parents were British immigrants and my mom’s parents were Irish and German, respectively. They had friends whose parents and grandparents came here from all over Eastern Europe and Italy.
@zhena gogolia: That’s a nice gift for a gardener or non-gardener. Should be a hit.
I found a lemon curd recipie a few years ago that you can use the microwave. I usually make a batch and give it to my family for Christmas gifts.
I don’t know about that. I remember a German bakery that made the best cookies like chocolate-dipped macaroons, tiny layered cakes covered in chocolate, etc.
@raven: Had I thought there’d be the slightest risk of miscomprehension, I would have reversed the order of the predicate nouns. But this is BJ – I shoulda node.
I have become semi-addicted to Trader Joe’s rugelach*. Lots of flaky crust, just the right bit of raspberry sweetness, comes in small pieces that can be deployed in quantity as needed. Excellent with coffee for my morning nosh.
* Must get the red/purple label. There is a variant with a pinkish label that is nowhere as good.
This looked like the thing most likely to survive shipping:
@zhena gogolia: I read yesterday’s threads late, so I didn’t get a chance until now to tell you I didn’t write the letter to NYT, but thanks for thinking of me.
White Flower Farm is great!
Oh, sorry. I thought I had seen that name associated with you! Another Mary G, I guess.
@Uncle Cosmo: I’m just killing time.
@Uncle Cosmo: Shamefacedly, the retired mathematician must admit that 8 x 18 = 144 grams of carbs, not 108, so it’s even worse – the storebought crust has only 2/3 of the carbs of the dates alone in the recipe crust. =8^[O} !
@zhena gogolia: If you haven’t placed your order yet, I can recommend strongly WFF’s amaryllis. No matter which one you send, it will bloom exactly as ordered, exactly on time, and be superior to any other in number of blooms, height, and general spectacle. Worth every penny.
Best rugelach ever nibbled on were the ones baked by one great-grandmother. Raisin filling. She was still cranking them out well past the age of 100.
@Barbara: Italian cookies are indeed the best cookies.
However, both Mr. Suzanne and I are of Italian descent on our dad’s sides (coming through Brooklyn), and neither of us have ever heard of this. With all the weddings we attended, if this was an Italian thing, I would have thought we’d have come across it.
One thing I will miss this year: for 10+ years, I’ve made cookies to pair with the holiday beers at a neighborhood joint (not my neighborhood, but I know the owners) that does a Beer School with holiday beers. There are usually about 45 people at the event, plus staff, and probably 6-10 beers, so . . . LOTS of cookies, but I’ve enjoyed it a lot. I usually use beer-adjacent ingredients–e.g., spent grain–or flavors. I’m not going to miss doing all the work, but I AM going to miss it, if that makes sense.
I used to order paperwhites from them to force over winter. Nothing better than blooms in January and February.
Thanks. I considered that, but I got nervous about the timing. (Plus I might have gotten that last year, I can’t remember!)
Hmm. Not too sure about that. Possible I suppose. And mall shopping is down significantly, while e-commerce is booming. The November 27 edition of the NPR program Marketwatch had a good segment on the shipping crunch.
There is a “last mile” problem. Amazon often has to contract with a lot of employees who use smaller and sometimes personal vehicles to get that package to your door.
It seems to be a southern Italian tradition.
Some good-looking dishes there.
@debbie: I’ve seen the cookie cake. Not the table with to-go cookies.
@Brachiator: We use Amazon all the time and have never seen them in a personal vehicle.
@zhena gogolia: A gardening stool – with or without wheels would be a great gift!
Maybe someone will put up a gift suggestions thread before the shipping window narrows too much?
@Suzanne: It could have been an adaptation but it seems likely that’s where the tradition started. If you have multiple people contributing cookies, it’s probably hard to make a a single cookie cake display, so maybe the cookie table grew out of that.
@Brachiator: Which reminds me. Another ex-coworker from a different job was going off to become a shaman (insert eyeroll, for this particular person) and a second co-worker was sorta going on about it. I finally gave up and said, look, to us atheists, it ALL looks like a kind of handwaving. For example, to catholics, the communion host is the literal body of christ. No it’s not! she said. Yes, I said; look up “transubstantiation.” When you’re not tied to a specific tradition, it’s easier to learn about a bunch of them.
Great piece by J Rubin in WaPo
I’ll put it on the list for next year, along with NotMax’s suggestions.
Thanks for post. Great looking cookies. I think reumara’s fired up and ready to go for Christmas, and has it on total lockdown, coming correct with receipts (aka, great cookies).
@debbie: Thank you for that link. Some wonderful cookie recipes.
I would like to try the chocolate and freshly ground black pepper cookies. (With rum icing, yet.)
Here in my little Southern California abode, I have been working at home for a couple of years and giving Amazon quite a workout. I have received Amazon orders via UPS, USPS, an official Amazon marked van, and small vans without any kind of markings which appeared to be personal vehicles. A couple of vehicles were small SUVs.
@Brachiator: How bout that!
Thats one of the best things she’s ever written.
Oops, I forgot we weren’t supposed to do politics!
I had a great course in college on ancient Near Eastern texts. It was fascinating to see how many independent myths, some older than the Bible, influenced or even became biblical texts. One deeply religious Christian fellow objected to some of the things the professor lectured about. I think the guy almost had a meltdown when the instructor noted that the Jewish holiday of Purim probably derived from a pagan fertility cult.
It was also interesting to go to the divinity school library and research some topics. I concluded that many people studying for the ministry had to know the mythological roots of their religion and how much of their tradition was arbitrary interpretation. But they have to shove all this to the side and never bring it up in front of their congregations.
@Brachiator: I always liked the 10,000-year-old-man version: There’s something bigger than Phil.
yeah, also might be considered rude to bring up vampires having their life from drinking blood and … oh, we do that too!
@catclub: So, the central rite of Catholicism includes both vampires and cannibalism.
@catclub: hah! yes. I mean, I am perfectly happy for people to have their traditions, and to use those traditions to explain things. As I explained to an ex-stepson, when he was upset to learn that I didn’t believe in deities (he was in catechism school at the time, and thought that I was saying that he was “lying” about deities), different people believe different things, and that’s okay. He was perfectly fine with that explanation.
Since we are talking about Christmas…major LOL material here:
Melania’s Christmas decor tells us everything about her. But mostly, we should just be grateful we don’t have to give a shit about her anymore:
L to the OL
He uses ½ tsp. of saffron threads. Vegan paella with mushrooms and garlic: video here and recipe here.
The Moar You Know
@raven: 30-40% of the Amazon deliveries I get here in San Diego is someone driving their own car. Less of that than usual in the last few weeks…and an increase in late/lost deliveries.
(for small dollar deliveries, we’re getting quite a few deliveries that just….vanish. And not just from Amazon)
Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Thanks for the Lennon song reference. Did I get that right? Broke my nut doing a real Thanksgiving so Christmas food gonna be Chinese takeout for sure. Plus modest all round which is how we do.
Watched 5 episodes of The West Wing last night. From seasons 3 and 4. Manchester 1 and 2. 20 Hours in America 1 and 2. Plus the doc at end of Season 3. Comfort food.
@The Moar You Know: Must be a function of location.
and zombies, don’t forget the zombies
@Brachiator: I remember a science fiction story from decades ago, but I don’t remember the name of the story or the author. It was a humans meet aliens story, and everything was going fine until the topic of religion came up. The aliens related their ritual of sacrificing one of their number to their deity, who then ate the sacrifice. The humans were appalled at such a primitive religion. Then the humans described Christianity, and when they got to the explanation of communion, the aliens were appalled. “You eat your God!?!?” That’s when fighting broke out.
that’s perfect then for putting up the ornaments on your 18″ Stonehenge
And an officially sanctioned ghost.
Not in any way, shape or form what you alluded to but am put in mind of Terry Bisson’s very short story.
We commenters can’t post photos.
I think at this point in the thread anything goes!
Tolstoy got sort of excommunicated for describing Communion as an old man in a robe telling the people to eat their god’s flesh and drink his blood. It’s a great scene in Resurrection.
@bluefish: See above
@zhena gogolia: I post photo’s all the time. You can’t embed them so they show up in the post but you can put them in and a simple click will display them.
@geg6: The only wedding I went to in Western PA (Pittsburgh) had a cookie table. The bride’s parents had had one too, in 1987 or so. The bride’s mother was Italian, but it was her mother in law who organized the cookie table for her wedding, and she was Slovak I think.
Oh, I thought he meant embedded in the comment.
@zhena gogolia: He probably did.
For some reason this came to mind:
Toys, film, 1992
Itself referencing an earlier movie referencing an earlier movie. (I think; definitely not a movie encyclopedia.)
@Princess: We can’t fight over the cookie table but we might rassle!
@Bill Arnold: Nope, I posted the Lennon song. It’s not the name of the song it’s the lyric.
Mike in NC
@Jeffro: We are as thrilled as kids on Christmas morning at the thought of the
FirstWorst Family soon vacating the peoples’ house.
@dnfree: I need to find that story. Excellent.
@Mike in NC
Am on again, off again fiddling with putting together a specific song parody on that. First stanza done to my initial satisfaction, three more to go – when the whim waxes.
This is pretty good.
“Really, now. Fisticuffs?”
“The calendar says Boxing Day, don’t it?”
This is funny. I don’t even know what mubi is, but I gather it’s a chi-chi streaming service.
Since organized religion formed around the same time as literacy, I figure *every* religion is an anthropological mishmash of earlier, tribal, oral traditions.
Tracking those down to their origins is probably difficult-to-impossible since they were, y’know, not written. Even the Torah, SFAIK the oldest relic of Western monotheism, is based on oral traditions passed down through who knows how many generations, each one changing the lore to suit the times they lived in, and borrowing wholesale from other tribal cultures they encountered.
Christianity is a lot of fun from an analytic perspective because it gobbled whole so many other religions. I remember being **quite** startled when I read about Zoroastrianism, with its eternal war between a God of Light and a God of Darkness, with the loser condemned to spend eternity in a pool of lava. (Zoroastrianism must itself have antecedents, from the Medes, maybe.)
I was used to seeing relics of paganism in Christianity (Santa, Easter Bunny, eggs, the Sacrifice and Resurrection) – but that was the first time I’d seen essentially the central armature of the religion – eternal battle of good v.evil, with Hell as punishment – somewhere else altogether.
I’m not an anthropologist by training, and that epiphany is probably old hat to anyone who is.
But it was a lot of fun to discover, as it were, on my own.
Well, you know what they say.
One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.
Just heard the original Mozart, so of course had to look up this:
@zhena gogolia: Good to know. Thanks.
You can post a link to a picture.
Never heard of a chi-chi streaming service….is it big in, say, Mexico?
Old Dan and Little Ann
My western NY wedding cookie table was quickly raided by the friends of my wife’s Polish grandmother. None of them I had ever met before. I didn’t have a single cookie due to the majority that were crammed into centuries old purses. It made them happy so fuck it.
So, three cupcakes? Hydrogen, helium, and metals?
Or tech installed at socially distanced tables in Hooters?
@Bill Arnold: Thank you, Bill. Will go look all that up. Thx for having something come to mind and sharing it with this old lady. Plus, funny. I need funny and folks not being so hungry three times a day, everyday. We all eat too much and don’t watch enough movies, if we have that luxury. To eat and zone out.
I grieve as I stagger around thinking of those in food bank lines and worried about evictions. Hell.
Running close to polly but don’t consider it so.
I want the calendar. The BJ calendar. The Walter edition.
@Ken: no…a full periodic table, with the elements’ names done in icing!
No, there are no vampires. also there are no vampires involved in
the central rite of christianity.
hoooowever, if there were vampires, they would look… similar.
Cannibalism is an easier case. pretty much yes.
One of the many things that I enjoyed about the old SF series “Babylon 5” is that even though the creator of the show is a right on atheist, he imagined a fictional universe with religions among the various humans and aliens. And he did not have episodes which presumed that Earth religion did not change in the future or was superior to the religion of other planetary civilizations.
In some real world interview with people about possible UFOs and religion, some Christian scholars interviewed admitted that the discovery of other planetary beings might present a challenge to their beliefs, but I think it was a Muslim cleric who said that he would simply ask the aliens what they believed.
Mom used to make great bourbon balls. I have no idea of the details other than I wasn’t supposed to eat them and they were great.
@Old Dan and Little Ann: I love that story.
J R in WV
A delightful post and comment thread. Good morning!
I enjoyed the whole thread, from cookie tables (???) to transubstantiation and it’s relationship to other obscure religious and mythological traditions. Your photo set up top was great. I’ll bet anything your antlers were only worn for the photo, not for the whole holiday prep work party.
Thanks for everything. We’re olds, and although we had great Xmas parties here in years gone past, with really big (needed guy wires! like 15 feet high!!) tree decorating by party attendees, which everyone really enjoyed, we’ve given all that up now. When we go to winter solstice dinner parties next door we make traditional foods to share. But the lifetime of collecting tree ornaments, we gave them away to friends.
Last year a great friend built a Stonehenge model from cookie dough parts made with herbal extracts included (if you know what I mean and I think you do!) that was really well done in all aspects — a dead on recreation of the ancient stone monument. It was a big hit for dessert with nearly everyone! So traditional, so ancient!
This year I’m not sure what we’re going to do, wife and I… probably drink traditional beverages, sparkling wine, etc. consume traditional herbs, toast the winter solstice — all alone, just the two of us, then go to bed early, since it will get dark really early. Feed the dogs and cats extra speciial dinners, also too.
Merry Xmas all, and to all a good night, tonight and for the rest of the year.
Good time to re-watch the 1976 horror classic, “The Omen.”
@NotMax: wow, awesome! I have only read his “Bears Discover Fire” in anthologies. I should look deeper.
I don’t really care that Stephen Miller has a baby, I’m just surprised that he’s able to spin straw into gold.
I remembered this year that Sunday after Thanksgiving is usually the start of Advent ( 4 Sundays before Christmas) so I got that first candle lit last night. I love gradually going into the Christmas season like that, and it not really being Christmas until Christmas Eve. Then keep the tree etc up until Twelfth Night, when the decorations absolutely must come down and be put away or bad luck for incomimg year.
This year my only outside decorations will be cranberries and popcorn strung up for the squirrels and birds. Ans a wreath on the door maybe.
maaan i loved babylon 5. that was some good shit.
With a father like that…
@Kent: My similar neighborhood seems much more decorated this year than prior years too. Hubby and I went out to a movie last night – The Last Vermeer, we were 2 of 4 people in the theater – and saw lots of houses with lights, some new decorators, others more extensive than before.
NYT had a recipe for Lemon Meringue Cookies yesterday in the magazine that I may try soon. Shortbread topped with lemon curd with crumbled baked meringue on top. Sorry I don’t know how to link but should be easy to find.
another one indoctrinated – like me – by the advent police. Of course, this is the right way.
I inherited a cookbook that my mother got as a weddimg present in 1950. It has been my go to cookbook for as long as I have been cooking (Mom let photocopy it.) Just tried last year a recipe we had never tried. Oatmeal mincemeat cookies. An oatmeal dough crust cut in a circle, dab of mincemeat inthe middle, then fold and seal like a turnover or pasty. Delicious. Not so overwhelming as full-fledged mincemeat pie or tarts.
@debbie: I did that once, not realizing just how fragrant paperwhites can be, and of course WFF has the ones that had to go outside or they would make my nose bleed, where something got them. Amaryllis doesn’t do this, blooms at the same time, and WFF’s are reliable to return next season if stored correctly.
Eier kringle cookies. All eggs, hardly any sugar for those who don’t have sweet toots/teeth.
We used to cut them and decorate like tiny Christmas cookies. Now we shape them like ring pretzels.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Aleia’s GF cookies have won a big following in our family
A not-bad reading of that Bisson story:
They’re Made Out of Meat – Youtube, Mar 19, 2013, 6:15
That story is excellent too. Bisson is under-read IMO.
(Michael Swanwick is another underappreciated SF short story writer.)
The cat is ????
I am not in the mood for Christmas.
I used to bake TONS of cookies (at least 175 dz. over 1 week) to give as gifts & take to the beauty salon, but ‘Rona (and getting older) has put a damper on that. I’ll probably bake about 4 or 5 varieties this year: rumprints (from a ’90’s recipe in the Chicago Tribune), white chocolate-cashew-cranberry (adapted from another ’90’s recipe in Better Homes & Gardens), chocolate mint cookies (America’s Test Kitchen), & a couple that I saw in the current issue of Cooks Country.