|This is me at a Cut-Out Cookie Class. See, I know more than just Greek cookies. Please can I come to your Cookie Exchange?? I'll do the work...I'm not a slacker! And I swear I won't bring Baklava.|
Hello My Name is DG, and I've Never Been Invited to a Cookie Exchange....
All of you, together now. HIIIII DGeeeeeeeee.
You're shocked aren't you? Shaking your head? Feeling sorry for me? I know, it's sad. Never. Never in my life have I been invited to a cookie exchange. And if I was, I would've done it all wrong - this I can guarantee you. Why? Because I am Greek. That's why.
Greek women could never handle a cookie exchange because they are too busy trying to make their own cookie platters - and these platters have to be bigger and better and have more of an assortment than any other Greek woman on the block. They will literally slave in the kitchen for days - no - weeks baking dozens and dozens of cookies. These cookies must be baked by that particular Greek woman, all by herself, because what Greek cookie platter has ever been made without the 3 key ingredients of Butter, Nuts, and GUILT. Every single cookie must be handmade, rolled by the overworked, strained fingers of a Greek woman. We are born to overachieve during the holidays. Friends, coworkers, neighbors - they all wait for the holidays to arrive so that they can indulge in Greek cookie platters.
I remember when I first got hired at the bank I worked for. My boss was taking me around the floor introducing me - painfully attempting to pronounce every syllable of my 6-syllable, 75- points- in -Scrabble, last name. Once she got it out, she'd add those two words. She's Greek. Just a little tidbit of info for everyone to digest. One of the men didn't wait 10 seconds after hearing those words before saying, "well then, we should expect Baklava at Christmas time!" I was used to this. Ever since I was a little girl, Christmas cookie platters have been part of the holiday ritual. Platters for my dad's work office, my teachers, neighbors, etc. etc. I (along with all of my best Greek girlfriends) grew up with my mother and grandmothers making everyone and their brother a cookie platter. They came to expect them. We don't know any other way to function during the holidays.
Back to the cookie exchange. Let's just say, for giggles, that a Greek woman hosts a Cookie Exchange and invites a dozen other Greek ladies. Here's how I predict it would go down.
~No one would follow the "Bring 2 dozen of the same cookie" rule. They would come in with 4 dozen and say "ohh, I just thought I'd bring more in case we needed extra.." We are taught at a young age to cook every meal as if the entire family might just 'drop by.' One thing you'll never hear at the Greek dinner table is "does anyone want the last fill in food item here. ?" No. We have so much leftover that we can make to go boxes for everyone at the table.
~No one would "Make the Display card to describe the cookie" correctly. Not to mention there would be 100 of the exact same cookie, made 20 different ways and everyone would try to compete as to why their family's recipe is the best, and why it's the proper shape and size compared to others.
~No one, not one, no one would follow the "Make a recipe card for other guests to take home with them to try." Greek women are notorious for 'accidentally' leaving out ingredients of recipes they are asked for. Many don't even have them written down - it's all ((makes motion of pointing slyly with pointer finger to temple)) up here. My Yia Yia uses the exact same tea cup that she's had for YEARS to measure a cup. She uses a 'pinch' here and a (cup your hand carefully) handful of this and that. What kind of measuring system IS that? I am destined to fail while trying to re-create her masterpieces!
~No one would want to box up and take home their cookies. Greeks like HUGE flat round platters and use baking cups for everything. Martha Stewart can keep her clear window-ed boxes and curling ribbon. No. Every cookie is sacred and needs to be clearly visible and appreciated on the tray.
~Greek Cookies are a hazard at parties. Between Kourambiedes (Butter cookies coated and drowning in powdered sugar) being a huge choking hazard, (have you ever accidentally inhaled while eating one of these? Near-death by accidental inhalation of absurd amounts of powdered sugar), Diabetes-inducing Baklava which is basically sugar and walnuts in filo dough swimming in syrup, and most of the other pastries involve more butter and eggs than any one human should consume in one year let alone one sitting. People must use extreme caution when eating these treats. What about the chance of a nut allergy? Oh Lord. I can't even bear the thought of someone - anyone - with a nut allergy at one of these parties. It's almost inconceivable to a Greek woman to have to allow for allergens.
~Judging the "best cookie" might end up on the front page of a newspaper. I would have to assume that if a 'best cookie' contest went on at a Greek Cookie exchange, someone would throwdown, accuse someone of stealing their Yia Yia's recipe, or - even worse - having their Yia Yia secretly make the cookies they brought to the party *GASP* (Sidenote: I am fortunate to still have my 2 Yia Yias - both of them in their late 80s, both of them still baking like maniacs during the holidays). I would probably drop a hint or two to each of them that I needed seven dozen cookies for a cookie exchange and they would gladly step up to the plate and say "I'll have them for you, lined in silver baking cups and packaged by the end of the day for pick up.." Do you think I'm kidding you? I'm not. They. Are. Soldiers. Those two - - those two are the reason I was 30 lbs overweight the first 20 years of my life. I might as well have eaten an entire stick of butter for breakfast my entire elementary school career. But I'm getting off topic, aren't I? Anyhow, I was saying - I probably would've enlisted those two to hook a busy girl up with a few dozen brilliantly baked cookies if I had to go to an exchange. Hey look, you're supposed to bring your A game cookies to those things - I don't have time for A game right now ok - I'm more like a Benchwarmer if you know what I mean.
~No one would follow the "this is the cookie I'm bringing" rule. If you are supposed to email or call the Hostess with a heads up for what you are bringing so there aren't too many duplicates, this would go terribly wrong at a Greek cookie exchange. Here's the conversation that would occur: (be sure to read in heavy Greek accent for added effect)
Helen: "Allo Maria...about da cookie change I gonna bring a nice tray of Melomakarona"
Maria: "No good, Helen...Sophie already gonna bring Melomakarona." "Bring a nice Fengarakia instead.."
Helen: "SOPHIE gonna bring Melomakarona? Have you tasted her Melomakarona? They too dry. She make a nice Ravani though - tell her she gonna make Ravani. I gonna make da Melomakarona - everybody love them every time."
Maria: "Po po poooo you gonna make me call Sophie and tell her? She no gonna come, she gonna get mad and she gonna tell her sister Athena what you said. And SHE no gonna be happy. And if Athena no happy, nobody gonna be happy."
Helen: "Fine Fine Fine. I bring the Fengarakia - let Sophie bring da dry Melomakarona and everybody gonna say is too dry."
SO you see? THIS is how the drama starts. Everyone judging each other's cookies. Too dry, too much syrup, walnuts not fine enough, cookies rolled out too big, too small. We are the worst critics. Ever.
So I will continue on the tradition of trying to get at least 3 different kinds of Greek cookies on a doilie-clad platter to drop off at school, work, doctor's offices, accountants, hairdressers, neighbor's homes, Priest's houses, friends, Romans, and Countrymen - and everyone I can think of in between.
It's what we do.
Cheers and Love to whatever you and your family call holiday traditions. And next time you go to a Cookie Exchange, think of me, alone at home, staring at the snow falling through the window.