It is an
established fact that, in celebration of Yule Tide and
gift-giving, many of our friends insist on shipping us cookies
for the Christmas season: yes, cookies, lovingly hand-made
in the kitchen hearth, thoughtfully interlayered with
wax paper fittings, and carefully tucked into the most
tastefully festive decorative enameled metal boxes.
Furthermore, it is well known that such traditionally
bestowed tins are annually placed into cardboard boxes
shaped just so, and carefully wrapped with sturdy brown
wrapping paper, and securely strapped with the finest parcel
twine or modern plastic packaging tapes.
In final preparation for shipment, the wrapping paper
is then neatly lettered with the shipping information,
and you will observe the care with which the customer TO:
and FROM: addressing blocks are written and spaced upon
the parcel, being careful not to allow the twine or tape
to obscure the vital information from the eyes of the common
carrier and package handlers. Then, the final touch: in
neat, boldface letters, almost always all upper-case (but
you can use lower case with a capital "F" if
you underline it), one finds the handling instructions, "F
R A G I L E".
Though it is theoretically possible to ship Christmas
cookies via Federal Express, Airborne or United Parcel
Service, and the thoroughness with which these carriers
handle and track their parcels is legendary, there is one
carrier without peer for such parcels: The United States
Postal Service. This ensures that your parcel will ride
to its destination securely snuggled amidst sundry other
like packages, containing golf clubs, bowling balls, and
bales of third-class bulk mailers and flyers.
When you receive your Christmas cookies, it is always
incumbent upon the recipient to inspect the contents, so
be able to assure the giver that all have arrived safely,
and so as to be able to say "but of course we're
saving them for Christmas Day". This is the customary
way of comforting the thoughtful, tasteful giver that
their hand-made gift will enjoy its deserved place of
honor on a silver platter on the groaning board, next
to the trussed Bird itself.
For all of these reasons above, and more, you need to
cull out the crumbs and broken bits, so that only the finest
surviving specimens grace the holiday platter. If the cookies
baked just a tad on the dry side that year, or, as is more
pertinently plausible, your mail carrier was having a particularly
bad day on the fateful afternoon of the arrival of your
Christmas cookies, it is entirely possible none will have
survived intact to grace the table on the big day.
It's your honor-bound duty, then, to establish which cookies
remain wholly fit for the platter, and to dispatch those
other paltry broken bits and half-cookies and crumbs as
humanely as possible. Some prefer to fastidiously pick
and natter over the contents in a prolonged period of sessions
or days, but, this has the effect of further drying out
the very home-baked freshness that makes such presents
attractive, and so many prefer to dispatch the entire contents
in one sitting:
- "Crumbs" range in size from single granulars
to large aggregates, bit somewhat less in size than "Bits".
Crumbs can be compressed into Bits with a deft application
of thumb and forefinger.
Bits" are pieces of cookie just barely large enough
to enclose (or partially enclose) a chunk of chocolate
chip. They are finger-size and can be squirreled into
the mouth without others noticing.
Quarters" are those fortunate finds where an entire
quarter-cookie has cleaved off from the whole, possibly
leaving three-quarters of a whole, but hopefully leaving
open the possibility of the fortunate find of the other,
Halves" arise from a circumstance where, owing to
the way dough folds and cleaves in the kneading and baking
processes, one entire cookie may be rift with a natural
fault line. Due to shipping and handling, a half cookie
can be induced to break off by itself, or, it can simply
be snapped off when no one is looking. As with quarters,
it is mathematically impossible to have a Half without
a missing Other Half, or its equivalent in Quarters and
Bits and Crumbs.
Whole Cookies" are those remarkable specimens which,
free of fault and cleave lines, actually survive the
natural selection process to grace the holiday platters.
Be It Resolved, Ye Merry:
To those not in the know, it may look sublimely silly
to grace a table with a large sterling platter offering
four or five perfect, whole Christmas Cookies. It takes
but little insight, however, to appreciate the loving
care and the precarious selection process which made
of those few specimens possible. And, for students
of the scientific process, it is but illustrative of
obsessive security precautions which Mother Nature
must take, if even in the extreme, to ensure the survival
of her species.
©Alex Forbes 12/22/2000