Thursday, December 30, 2010

Burning the Christmas Cookies

... Again!

My woeful attempt to portray Julia Child at Christmas time is normally met with some traumatic experience either on the part of me or my family.  Although I do enjoy experimenting a little in the kitchen and am grateful to my loyal subjects for their willingness to sometimes act as my guinea pigs, one would think the simple tasks of Christmas Cookies would be met without incident.  Here's what happened one day when my phone rang:

Me:  "Ahlooo-oh!"  (That's my best Julia impression!  I'm really good at it!  Just ask Dan!...  I do it all the time!)
Caller:  "Uh, hello?  Mrs. Hott?"
Me:  "Who?  Oh, you mean me?  Yes, speeeeaking!"  (It's my Julia Child again!  I'm still not used to being called Mrs. Hott.  That name is reserved for Dan's 89 year old mother.  I really do forget it's me after 14 years.)
Caller:  "This is Morgan County 911 Emergency calling.  Is everything alright?  We got a call from one of your neighbors."
Now, I can hear a fire whistle zooming up our hill.
Me:  "My neighbors?  Are they okay?"  (I am confused.  All the Hotts are fine, present, and accounted for.)
Caller:  "Yes mam.  They are fine.  But they have called to report a fire."
Me:  "Fire. Really?!!!  Where"
Caller:  "Well, at your residence!  We have received a report of billowing smoke emitting from your home."
Me:  "Smoke... where?  Are you serious?  Can you see me at my house?  How do you know there is smoke?"  -- Like 911 has some magic eye;  I really thought they were looking at me talking on the phone via satellite or something.
Caller:  "Yes.  Emergency services should be there any second."
Me:  Finally realizing what in the world was going on, "Oh, oh, oh!   Smoke!?  Oh no.... that's just me.  I was burning the Christmas cookies,... again."

Oh!  I.am.going.to.make.those.neighbors eat these cookies!  They called the Fire Department on me!  Yikes!  When they showed up, I had to give them the only good batch I had.  Talk about feeling like a fool!  There was NO fire!  The only smoke coming from the Hott house was a tray of Christmas cookies I stuck out on the back porch.  Well, they nearly did go up in flames before I got them out of the oven.  But the house wasn't on fire, for goodness sakes.  You probably don't believe me; so, I'll show you a picture:

Doesn't that look yummy?  You see, Julia Child (although I love her) I am not!  And for some unknown reason, I manage to ruin 90% of everything I bake and/or cook.  Although I am kidding about 911 and the fire truck, I seriously DID have to set out quite a few trays of smoking cookies on the back porch after my kitchen was engulfed in smoke and our house alarm went off.  Even the cats won't touch them. 

Each holiday, I get really nervous about the annual family dinner at the Hotts where everyone brings a dish thanks to my cooking skills.  Let me tell you in case you didn't know, my husband has a HUGE family.  There are 13 brothers and sisters.  One time I counted everyone, direct descendants, of the original Riley and Violet Hott and got 164!  That was in 2006.  I am sure by now there are at least 12-15 new babies.  For these special meals, dishes show up by the dozens.  After a few years, I realized that of my many sisters-in-laws, they each bring the exact same thing every year!  Except me.

So, after 16 years, it only took me 32 holidays to figure this out.  As much as I enjoy entertaining, bringing a dish to the Hott Family Holiday is my least favorite of all!  Normally, they tease me and criticize my creation.  Occasionally, a nephew or two has faked stomach poisoning.  Sometimes, it's just easier not to bring anything at all!  So, why is it I don't have my "regular" dish to bring!

Until this year!  We were having this conversation about what would be interesting to prepare and Dan, my husband, mentioned that his mom really likes molasses cookies.  He even had her original recipe written down by his older sister.  Molasses cookies.... hummmm... I've never heard of that.

Well, neither did our 10 year old Violet; because she erupts with an looooong "Eeeeeeeeeewe!"  WHY would you want to make those?"   I thought she was just pinpointing my unique cooking skills.  "Isn't that what COWS do?  Yuck!" 

What?  She thought it was "manure" cookies!  Now seriously... why would I make cookies out of manure?  Don't answer that!

So, I proceeded to purchase the ingredients, finding that molasses is some pretty nasty looking stuff.  But I made the cookies anyway.  After burning, well, a few, I managed to salvage enough to take to the holiday family event.  Secretly, I snuck them in the kitchen and placed them with the mountain of other cookies on the table.  And I told Caity, "If anyone mentions my molasses cookies, don't say who made them."

After a hike near the Potomac where Dan's nephew scared the cr** out of me (or molasses) with a dead raccoon (aren't these Hotts a hoot!), we made it back to the house for dessert.  I sat down with my sister-in-laws famous chocolate pie when I hear someone say, "Where are those molasses cookies?"

I froze.

Oh no!  Here it comes!  I was never going to live this down.  Beginning to perspire, I glanced at Caity out of the corner of my eye and whispered, "Don't say a word."  I was NOT about to admit I had made yet another dish the Hotts would find fault with!  Oh no!  Then I heard:

"Wait!  Here's the pan!  They're all gone!  Oh no... I wanted another!"  Much to my amazement, they emptied every last one of my molasses cookies.  "Who made them anyway?"

Silence.... which doesn't happen often at the Hott house.  I was as quiet as a mouse.  They didn't need to know it was me!  Really, wouldn't it be more fun just watching them enjoy the molasses cookies?!  In the meantime, Dan's looking at me and wondering why I'm not saying anything.  And he says, "Well, Ang made them!"

Busted!  All 164 Hott heads turned to me in shock!  Oh.come.on!  They were all completely surprised that the molasses cookies came from Angie's kitchen.  Guess me and Julia DO have something in common after all!  So, I said "Awe shucks you guys... it was Mrs. Hott's recipe!"

Guess what?  I was so proud of myself, I made another batch for Christmas.  For the life of me, I am not so sure why they like them so much because they are about the strangest tasting cookie I've ever come across.  But they do grow on you. 

Now, I look at that tray of burned cookies and I am reminded of all the dishes I've burned; crazy things I've done and silly mistakes I've made both in the kitchen and over the years.  And you know what?  It's just cookies.  Each crispy chunk of carbon reminds me of a disappointment I've had over the year 2010; another mess in the kitchen; mountains of laundry; numerous trips to the grocery store; boo boos needing band aids; noses to wipe; miles of trips to town for school events; more gas for the car; midnight runs to the ER when Levi fell out of bed; mountains of bills waiting to be paid; medical needs that never quit; to mouths to feed again and again.  2010 brought us the word "Brugada" - a rare and fatal heart arrhythmia; progressing symptoms of Parkinson's Disease; a mother-in-laws failing health; school bullies; financial strains; and lost college financial aid. 

But like I said, they're just burned cookies.  Let's count blessings! Here's mine!

Happy New Year from the Hott Family!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33

I send all my troubles (a.k.a burned cookies) to God.  He doesn't mind!
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