One batch of cookies can take 1/2 lb. of butter. Frosting it will take another 1/4 lb. Calculations using the U.S. 2000 census indicate that if just 1/3 of American households make 3 batches of cookies this holiday season, then butter consumption will increase by approximately 79,110,075.75 lbs. That’s a lot of extra butter. Where does it all come from?
For the answer, this investigative reporter went to the source. The following is an excerpt from my interview with Anna May, Lulu, Sassy, Sprinkles, and Julia –Holstein cows on George Dittmar’s dairy farm in central Wisconsin. The composed demeanor of these heifers, tastefully chewing their cud while sporting hides of contrasting black and white patches, belied the critical importance of their labor. I asked, “Does the extra baking during the holidays make this a busy time for you?” WIDairy.com
They looked at each other. Then Anna May, the group’s most forthright member, spoke first. “Oh, well, our busiest time is in the fall.”
“Yes,” said Sassy, “that’s when Mr. D. asks us for extra milk to send to the cheese and butter factories.”
“They need it early to get the holiday food supplies ready in November,” explained Julia.
“Oh, I see,” I said, “which might be why Wisconsin butter production increased 6.9%, up to 33.9 million pounds this past October.” The cows’ expressions went deadpan as each tried imagining a million pounds of butter. “The extra work probably puts quite a strain on you,” I offered.
“Oh, but it’s worth it,” replied Sprinkles sweetly, “to see the children’s faces light up with joy when they’re given a frosted sugar cookie. It just puts a lump in my throat.”
“That’s her cud,” quipped Lulu to Sassy.
Anna May shot them a stern look and said to me, “Sprinkles is right. When you give a special holiday-shaped cookie to a child you give them more than a cookie, –you give a TOY!”
“Yes indeed,” confirmed Julia, “you give a TOY!” The irreverence ceased as the younger cows deferred to Julia. I learned later that Julia enjoys a position of authority in the barn because she had been named after Julia Child, a cook who definitely understood the value of good cream and butter. Julia said, “A child doesn’t eat a cookie like an adult does.”
“Oh, no,” said Sprinkles shaking her head and pursing her lips in agreement.
“When adults bite into a cookie,” continued Julia, “their pleasure appears with a smile and brightening eyes. The adult will say, ‘Mmmm! This is good!’ But a child’s pleasure…well, a child’s pleasure begins long before the first bite.”
“You see,” explained Anna May, “the magic of the holiday is in the cookie. In a child’s hand, a cookie comes alive. Children hear the bell-shaped cookies ring when they shake them.”
“They see a shooting star’s fiery tale when they wave the star cookie above their heads,” said Julia.
“A wreath slipped on to a finger becomes a spinning ring,” added Sassy.
“Oh, that’s a wonderful game!” laughed Sprinkles. “Children love to see how much of the ring they can nibble away before it falls from their finger.”
“And they like to sing Frosty the Snowman when they pretend the snowmen cookies are skating over the table,” said Anna May.
“They sing Santa Claus Is Coming To Town when they make the Santas walk,” said Julia.
“Don’t forget the gingerbread man,” reminded Lulu. “Whole classrooms of kids run throughout schools looking for him.”
“And then it’s horrible!” wailed Sassy. The other cows looked at her, stupefied. “Haven’t you seen how those little boys eat a gingerbread man?!” she defended. “They put their teeth around his neck and rip his whole head off!”