My last Christmas in the Makedonija

My last Christmas in the Makedonija

Between traveling around the region running semi-final spelling bees, getting sick, preparing for and running the final spelling bee, putting together a library grant, and getting sick again (in a more thrilling fashion this time, necessitating a visit to Skopje), this has been a long four weeks, so I decided to spend Christmas in Debar napping and making Christmas cookies with A.

Baking with A. is probably as good an introduction to parenting as I will ever get. On Friday she got permission from her mom to go grocery shopping with me, and we went into town to visit the two biggest stores in Debar and buy countless sticks of butter, bags of powdered sugar, and eggs. Yesterday she came over first thing in the morning to ask when we could start making cookies; I held her off until ten am, and in my two “free” hours cleaned dishes and made sugar cookie dough to refrigerate.

So, we listened to Christmas music while we made the batter for chocolate cookies. We had to refrigerate the chocolate batter too because it was pretty thin, and in the meantime rolled out and baked sugar cookies. I put some colored sprinkles in the dough: good decision.

A. liked this part of the day, but abandoned me a little before we finished the sugar cookies so she could eat lunch. When she came back I had started on the chocolate ones (which I topped with a square of Milka bar each, so it would melt and make this nice swirly frosting sort of thing in the middle of each cookie) and she had clearly lost interest in baking, telling me that she wanted to play Donkey Kong and that I never play with her. (Not true.) Finally I shuffled A. off by giving her all the sugar cookies to give to her family, finished the chocolate ones on my own, skyped with my family, tried watching Miracle on 34th Street (not good) and read Bill Bryson’s book on Shakespeare. All in all it was a pretty good Christmas; and today I took the chocolate cookies over to my family’s for lunch, although they say I am going to make them fat.

We overestimated how many cookies we would make, so now I have three bars of butter left in my fridge that I better find something to do with before I leave for vacation. Snickerdoodles?

P.S. As you maybe guessed because I linked to the recipes, both the cookies turned out really well. I had planned to make frosting for the sugar cookies, but out of a combination of laziness and thinking they were good on their own, I didn’t. And the chocolate ones (I adjusted the recipe a little because I didn’t buy a large enough chocolate bar to melt; so threw in a full cup of butter instead of 3/4 cup and about 10 spoons of cocoa powder) were great, kind of cakey. Weirdly the caramel Milka bar, which was delicious when I ate it just melted on a warm cookie, lost its flavor after cooling; but the strawberry Milka held onto its, uh, “flavor integrity.” And my family ate them really, really quickly.

P.P.S. And if the Peace Corps has taught me anything about cooking (besides the usefulness of a coil heater for defrosting food), it’s that whenever a recipe calls for a mixer, you do not need a mixer.


4 responses »

  1. That sounds fun! I got rid of my mixer because the wire had a warning label on it that said, “WARNING! WASH HANDS AFTER USE BECAUSE OF LEAD IN CORD!” and I thought, why am I using this with food? And also the beaters never latched in properly so they’d fall out into the bowl. And then I’d have to reach into the batter and grab them with my lead-contaminated (just kidding) hands. Since then, I too have discovered that when a recipe says you don’t need a mixer, you really don’t! (That or a food processor. My food processor is such a pain to clean, I think, why on Earth would I use this to make bread dough like the cookbook says!?) (And I just realized how “my food processor is such a pain to clean” sounds to someone in Macedonia.)
    Did you like that Bill Bryson book? I listened to it on CD a few months ago.

    • Ha, I would’ve gotten rid of that mixer too…and god knows that if I had a food processor I would be whining about it too. In the States I had one of those mini ones you can get for $20 (well, I guess I still have it in a storage unit somewhere) and I would do my best to never use it, because it was such a pain to take it apart and clean all the parts. I like to think that I’ll keep cooking the way I do now, using my hands for mixing instead of blenders or food processors, but I be one of the first things I do when I get home is to pull out the blender and make hummus. Ah well.

      I loved the Bryson book. What did you think of it?

  2. I liked it a lot but I didn’t like it as much as his other books. I guess what I mean is, his other books were magical and memorable and this one was less so, but maybe because so much of it was de-masking all the mythology of Shakespeare and saying, look, we really don’t know that much! Which I respected. And I really liked the part at the end that goes into all the Shakespeare-doubters and their crazy theories about who really wrote all those plays and poems.
    Still, I liked The Lost Continent a lot more!

    • My favorite Bryson books are definitely the ones where he’s traveling. I haven’t read all of his history(ish?) books and I guess I’ll eventually get around to them, but for the most part they can’t compare with him hiking the Appalachian Trail.

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