Squeak…squeak…squeak, squeak, squeak.
Squrrrrr!….EEEEEEEEE! Squrrrrrrr! Hrrrrrrrrrrrr! EEEEEEE!
Squeak, squeak, squeak…squeak, squeak.
Squrrrrrrrr! HRRRRRRR! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
“Lauren, PLEASE! Give that puppy something to chew besides that squeaky ball! And David, for the last time, will you GET THOSE WALKIE TALKIES OUT OF THE KITCHEN! That static is driving me nuts!”
“But Moooomm, I’m not doing it, the radio is. See, Mom? When I hold them next to the radio they make these sounds. Listen.” HRRRRRRRRR, EEEEEEEEE, HORRRR, SQURRRRRR. “Why do they do that?”
“They both use radio waves to transmit the voices and when the radio waves interfere with each other it sounds like static,” I answer, calling on the dregs of my reserve patience.
“But how, Mom?” EEEEEEEEE! Qurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! HORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!..EEEEEEEE!
“You’ll learn it when you take physics. Now OUT!”
No, I admit I’m not the holiday season’s iconic mother. No Bing Crosby croons in the background while I waltz about my sparkling kitchen baking Christmas cookies. No rosy-cheeked, angelic children watch in awe as I magically transform gooey dough into sweet, beautiful cookies. No, mine is not the mythical “Grandma’s kitchen” of yester-year. So why does an industrial aura cloud my holiday baking rather than the warm light of hearth and home? – Because, I signed up to bring 4 dozen cookies to the children’s school holiday party. And I have to bake them NOW! No interference, gang, I’m a mother on a mission.
But I didn’t completely shove aside holiday tradition; I just borrowed someone else’s. I found a Christmas cookie recipe for pepparkakor, – Swedish ginger crisps. This recipe was a favorite of the Peterson family, a Swedish family that lives in northern Wisconsin. Wanda Peterson Mango collected her mother’s and grandmother’s recipes and published them in the cookbook, Grandma’s Home Kitchen: Where lessons and life were mixed with love. Wanda’s grandmother was born in Sweden, and the cookbook contains many authentic Swedish recipes. The local farm community in which the Peterson’s lived enjoyed the family’s cooking and encouraged Wanda’s mother, Alice Peterson, to open a bakery. In 1970, the Peterson women opened Grandma’s Swedish Bakery in Door County, Wisconsin. The bakery is part of the The Wagon Trail Resort, and today a Grandma’s Swedish Bakery can also be found in Ellison Bay and Sturgeon Bay. Click on “continue reading” for the Peterson family’s recipe for ginger crisps, or as they would call them, pepparkakor.
Pepparkakor – ginger crisps
- 3/4 cup margarine
- 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/3 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon ginger
‘Soften margarine in a large mixing bowl and add 1 cup sugar. Cream together. Add egg and molasses; beat for 2 minutes.
“Sift flour, salt, baking soda, allspice, cloves, and ginger together. Add to molasses mixture. Mix until well blended.
“Divide dough in half and roll each into long, 1 1/2 -inch-wide rolls. Wrap a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap around each roll, and put in refrigerator to chill for 3 or more hours.
“Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheets. Slice cookies about 1/3-inch thick; dip in remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until cookies feel dry in the middle. Put on rack to cool. Cookies will get crispy as they cool.
“Store in an airtight container to keep crispy.”
When I was a child we called these cookies “ginger snaps”. They are marvelously sweet and spicy. They are perfect to use in sauerbraten gravy.
So often I wonder how the myth of perennially-saintly, sweet-tempered mothers arose. I can’t believe mothers had it easier in years past. I know they had more children and worked physically harder than we do today. So how did they keep sane? I wonder. Did they extract perfect behavior by beating their children as often as the eggs and butter? I don’t think that would work. Or did they just send their whole brood outside to play, regardless of Wisconsin-winter temperatures? I think this tactic more likely. And what do we do today? Send them to watch TV? Sometimes. But anyway, show me that mother that’s got time to brood over such questions and I’ll show you a mother who’s taking her eyes off the ball just long enough to let her kids drape clothing over lampshades and start small fires. Sigh.