Bowing to the clamor from at least three faithful blog readers, I herewith present you with the recipe for Speedy’s mother’s Christmas cookies. Too late for this year, I know, but tuck it away for early next December.
Speedy’s father came to the U.S. from Sicily, and his mother was born here shortly after her parents arrived from the same island. Somehow through all the years that I’ve been scarfing down these yummy cookies I figured that they were adapted from an old Sicilian Christmas recipe. Not at all.
In fact, if I were to be completely honest, this recipe should be called Mrs. Stockwell’s Christmas cookies. I asked Speedy what the history of his Mom’s cookies was and he said, “I don’t know. They were just always there. Ask my sister.” So I did.
Back when Speedy wasn’t even a twinkle in his father’s eye his parents lived across the street from Mrs. Stockwell; her divorced daughter, Darlene Johnson; and her little boy Jerry Johnson. Little Jerry and Speedy’s sister Fran were best friends when they were very young, and frequently played together. On the days when they were not allowed to play together each would sit on his own curb and they would converse across the then-sleepy Wisconsin Avenue.
They went to kindergarten together, Fran and Jerry, and Fran remembers that Jerry was quite a talker. In fact, she well remembers the day the kindergarten teacher ran out of patience with Jerry’s continual chatter, put tape across his mouth and deposited him in the cloak room. Somehow I can’t see that happening nowadays.
And the cookies? Well, they were Mrs. Stockwell’s recipe, and she shared it with Mrs. Johnson’s friend Nonna Salamone who turned them into her own Christmas tradition. I got wondering about the Crisco – was that even around in the mid-1930′s when all this recipe exchanging and mouth-taping was going on? Yes, it turns out that Crisco was introduced in 1911 and packaged sour cream was introduced a year later. So there had been plenty of time for this great recipe to be invented. I like to imagine that maybe Mrs. Stockwell and Mrs. Johnson invited Frances over to bake cookies with Jimmy – can’t you just picture it?
I have no idea who that other little boy is – must be another of Jerry’s friends invited over for the fun. Isn’t Fran adorable? Hard to imagine we just celebrated her 83rd birthday!
These are the simple cookies of long ago. They’re fun and easy to make with children, and tasty to eat. While Crisco has had a lot of bad press over the years, and still suffers a dubious reputation, the Smucker Company has done much to improve it in recent years – you can read its rather interesting history here (I am always amazed at what we can learn from Wikipedia). It’s probably just fine to use it on those infrequent occasions when you make Nonna Salamone’s Christmas cookies and ‘Mbriolata. The cookie recipe is here. I hope you enjoy making (and eating) these cookies as much as Speedy and I do.