It's comforting to observe family traditions during the holiday season. A particularly important one in my household is cookies at Christmas. The tradition started years ago when my mother pointed out that I had the youngest children in the family and suggested I should host the extended family get-to-gather on Christmas Eve. I came up with the idea of serving cookies.


Cookies became the hallmark of my annual party. I started with my Grandmother's Butter Cookies, the favorite from my childhood in Chicago, a Golden Fruit-Cake recipe that was the personal preference of my high school cooking instructor, and mother's favorite Spritz Cookies. From my Betty Crocker Cookbook, I added Coconut Macaroons that became my father's favorite and Walnut Squares the favorite of my father-in-law. Now when I bake these, it is as if the people who inspired them are with me as we celebrate.


Over the years I sometimes added Rum Balls, Peanut Butter Balls, and a favorite of my children, a soft Chocolate Drop Cookie receipt that originally was attached to a new baking pan. The special chocolate cookies missed the spread for a few holidays when I misplaced the recipe. There are many recipes for chocolate cookies and I tried several over the years but so far none is the recipe that went missing.


Each year, I experimented with other selections and if it was favorably received by my family, it became part of the tradition. The assortment on the expandable dining room table grew commensurate with the number of years we did this. When my daughter became old enough to cook, her contrition was Chocolate Fudge and Patti-shell cookies and Butter Torts, the favorite cookie recipes from the families of her girl friends.


I would take a plateful to work to share with my colleagues at the Holiday Office Party and excesses were packaged up at the end of the family get-to-gather and sent home with my guests.


Through the years, I added gingerbread boys for my grandchildren, persimmon cookies from a wonderful friend, and foreign favorites like Pfeffernuesse and Poppy Seed Cake. I looked forward to visits from my sister-in-law when she brought her Swedish Rosette Cookies. I regret I was less than successful with my attempt at making Lebkuchen and Pizzelles. I'm not a Star gourmet cook like our Charlene, I'm just willing to experiment and I'm big on persistence.


In the days when Hadley's had only the one location, an important part of my Christmas tradition was the drive from Los Angeles to Cabazon to purchase dried fruit and nuts. It didn't matter if I was out of work, strapped for cash and had to make other adjustments to my budget. Christmas Cookies were my priority and a necessary element for a successful holiday season.


One day, in the late '70s when I was on staff with one of the major accounting firms, I got a different perspective from a partner with our firm. I had make my annual trek to Hadley's the prior evening and I was appalled that the cash register tab was almost twice what it had been previously. I complained to him blaming the price increase on the inflation were were experiencing at the time. His response shocked me.


He suggested to, "Find some other recipes that aren't so expensive." He was probably thinking that I wanted a raise and his comment was meant to discourage me from asking for one.


His attitude shocked me. He was the embodiment of the Grinch. You can't make Fruitcake without dried fruit and nuts, Butter Cookies without butter or Macaroons without coconut. He was suggesting that I change the menu that had taken me years to perfect. He didn't realize how important my cookies were to my Christmas.


The economic conditions we face today challenge us to make difficult and sometimes painful financial decisions. I refuse to let any Grinch types to ruin my Christmas and I hope you don't' any to ruin yours. Have your special Christmas and keep your priorities. Doing so is what keeps us in control of our lives during turbulent times. Merry Christmas to you all. May the blessings of the season help you through difficult times.