Jessie Raymond: Christmas cookies or consequences
Last year, I started my holiday baking the day after Thanksgiving. By getting an early start and pacing myself, I reasoned, I could build up a varied inventory and be able to hand out plates of goodies to all, right through Christmas.
I bought butter and sugar by the case, sharpened my cookie cutters, generously floured every flat surface in the house and started cranking out cookies. The Keebler elves could have taken some lessons in mass production.
The theory — bake early and often — was logical and well intentioned. And, had I wrapped and frozen each batch of cookies and bars as they came out of the oven, I would have been able to spread Christmas cheer — in the traditional form of refined carbohydrates — to all our family and friends.
But my plan ignored a key variable: human nature. Specifically, my human nature. I can’t walk past a plate of freshly baked cookies without having one. And, in 50 years, I have yet to stop at just one.
One cookie is just a warmup. I require subsequent cookies to truly savor the nuances of butter, cinnamon and vanilla; to embrace the chewy yet soft texture that reminds me of Christmases past and makes me feel warm and content. If one cookie is a good start, three — which happens to be the number of Wise Men — is even better.
But why stop there? Eight cookies means one for each of Santa’s reindeer — nine, if you count Rudolph. And, hey, there are 12 days of Christmas …
You see how it goes with me.
Mark, who rolls his eyes as soon as I start in on the “nuances of butter” part, doesn’t see the problem.
“If you like cookies,” he says, “eat them. It’s the holidays.”
This from a man who can have two snickerdoodles before bed and then fall asleep while I lie awake salivating, envisioning the remaining supply downstairs. What if the house gets burgled during the night and the bad guys take the cookies? And does our homeowners’ insurance cover baked goods, which it should, given the price of butter these days?
Not only does Mark not fret about splurging over Christmas, he can work off any holiday weight gain with a week of “dieting” (doing a few burpees and skipping dessert).
I have neither his willpower nor his metabolism.
Last year, I didn’t even try to fight it. “After all, it’s Christmas,” I told myself, joyfully succumbing to over a month of unfettered cookie consumption. I didn’t count exactly how many I ate; let’s just say that, on any given December night, burglars would have left hungry.
But I woke up on New Year’s Day with a cookie hangover. It took weeks for me to get back to my normal levels of health and energy. Cookies, even the ones with green sprinkles, are not good for you.
This year has to be different.
Here we are in the first week of December, and — much to Mark’s consternation — I have yet to bake a single Christmas cookie. Oh, they’ll be coming. I’m just trying to prolong the epic battle between conscience and desire, and the inevitable guilt when desire wins. By starting my holiday baking two weeks later than last year, I have already ingested several dozen fewer cookies.
But tradition is tradition. I can’t not bake cookies at all, or we might as well just cancel Christmas. So I’m going to make some kind of deal with myself. Maybe I’ll only allow myself to eat cookies on the weekends. Or maybe just every other day.
OK, fine, every day. But maybe just one cookie per day. No, two.
That’s as low as I can go. I’m just not cut out for deprivation.
Of course, past experience shows I have only two portion control settings when it comes to cookies: none (which only works if there are no cookies in the house) and the whole plate.
How about this: I’ll try to hold myself to two cookies per day for the month of December, and for every cookie I consume above that limit, I’ll put a dollar in a jar. Maybe, if I can’t exercise simple self-control, the threat of a cash penalty will keep my cookie inhalation tendencies in check.
It probably won’t work.
On the bright side, however, by January I should be able to buy a new iPhone.