Gastronomic Gifts V: Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies, circa 2008*
Posted Dec 20 2008 5:54pm
* Or, Ricki Finally Decides to Get Political
[There's just nothing like a homemade gift for the holidays. This year, with the purse strings a little tighter than usual, I'm determined to make at least a few in my kitchen--and thought I'd share my ideas in case you'd like to partake, too. ]
[Dig those green threads of lime zest in there! Red and green--how festive!]
I bet you can tell from the title alone that this is a retro recipe. For me, the name “Tutti Fruiti” brings to mind Mrs. Cunningham’s kitchen on Happy Days, or Leave it to Beaver, or Doris Day. I mean, it just sounds so Barbie doll. . .so potroast-and-mashed-potatoes. . . so poodle skirts and bobbysocks. . . so 1950s Housewife. Or does it?
Maybe it’s just me, but just when did feminism get such a bad rap? (Oh oh–I’ve uttered the “F-Word”!! I can hear the roar of footsteps as droves of my readers hightail it for the exit). But seriously. I happened to grow up during a time of great social change for women, when being able to make our own choices and earn our own money was still a novelty, one that was both thrilling, and ground-breaking. (Hmm. Sort of reminds me of the excitement in the air over recent political developments, too).
These days, I’m sensing a backward shift in attitude all over the media. It makes me sad to think that young women today feel they can’t embrace independence and self-sufficiency without giving up everything old-fashioned at the same time. Claims of Grrrrrrl power from hyper-sexed, no-unmentionable-flaunting, party-hardy starlets who trumpet liberation but are really just craving male attention are just one facet of the problem. You know that social attitudes have really shifted when they hit your soap opera. As The World Turns (my own indulgence, as I may have mentioned before) may have one of the first gay story lines on daytime, but they seem to have abandoned their women back in the fifties.
Case in Point: Jack and Carly. Here’s a sample:
Carly [to her ex-husband, Jack]: What? You spent the $5000 intended for our son’s boarding school tuition on your new wife-to-be’s wedding dress??!!
Jack: Don’t worry, Carly, I will make sure our kids are taken care of.
Carly: I’m warning you, Jack, you’d better not squander your money on that woman. If our kids have to suffer because you can’t pay for them. . . well, I promise you, I will make your life a living hell.
Jack: I told you I’d take care of it, Carly, and I will! [storms off in a huff.]
Does anyone else read that dialogue and wonder, “Um, excuse me, but where is Carly’s portion of that tuition?” Why isn’t she also contributing to her son’s schooling? And before you hurl epithets at my insensitivity to the woman’s dilemma, consider that Carly’s character is supposedly a millionaire. That’s right: as a former high-flying fashion designer, she has way more money than her honest-cop ex-husband. Yet despite rolling in dough, she expects the man to pay for everything. Poor old Gloria Steinem (and I suppose she really is old, nowadays) is probably rolling over in her Playboy bunny suit.
I don’t see any conflict of interest in calling myself a feminist and still enjoying all the activities that take place in the kitchen (no, not those activities, people! I was referring to cooking, baking, eating and the like!) In fact, I’ve always been proud to use the title ”Ms.” (and no, it’s not just a title for divorced women ). Another shock: I also retained my name when I got married (to the first one, not the HH ). I mean, I’d had the name since I was born, didn’t I? I was pretty attached to it. My ex-husband argued that we were more of a coherent “team” with the same last name. Okay, I countered, then let “the team” carry my last name. (I’m afraid I can’t reprint what he said in response to that.)
And what does this sudden pro-feminist rant have to do with cookies, you may wonder?
Well, in high school, one of the greatest feminist role models I’ve ever known was Mrs. Jennings. Mrs. J was quite a powerhouse: she held a full-time job as a high school teacher; she was on various academic boards; she had a part-time freelance gig outside of school; and she was one all around tough cookie (no pun intended). Probably only about 10 years my senior at the time, Mrs. J certainly looked the part: she was rather strident in her manner, with a mile-high ‘do that bore a striking resemblance to a rusted Brillo pad. Her shoes were sensible, her suits stiff and straight-cut in that “must-emulate-male-businessmen” way, and her demeanor was always entirely humorless. At the same time, she showed us girls what could be accomplished by women who were smart and self-sufficient.
Oh, and she taught Home Economics.
Home Economics! Even the name sounds anachronistic. But it was in Mrs. J’s class that I learned how to measure dry ingedients in the metal cups and wet ingredients in the glass cups; how to level my baking powder with the back of a knife; how to roll dough from the center outward; how to distinguish between a selection of six different kinds of milk**; and how to make Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies. That woman really could do it all! And she taught us it was okay to be a feminist and still love all the old-fashioned female virtues, too.
Of course, the original recipe wasn’t vegan (Mrs. J wasn’t that liberated). But I’ve retained it all these years because these were just the perfect holiday cookie in every way: they are delicious, they are incredibly easy to make (of course, any woman with all that going on had to find ways to save time in the kitchen), they travel well, and they seem to appeal to everyone. The original recipe also contained old-fashioned gumdrops, chopped up. Well, darned if I didn’t have the perfect substitute right on hand–the yummy gummies I got as a gift in my swap package from Neil! The lime zest is my own addition, to round out the Christmassy colors.
Of all the fancy, frosted, cookie-cut or filled cookies I make at the holiday season, these remain my very favorites ( and they’re not even chocolate!!). Soft yet slightly crumbly with a light, citrus, almond-perfumed aroma and dotted throughout with brilliant bits of shiny color like fragments of stained glass, these cookies are a treat to eat.
And when you don the frilly apron to serve these to friends and family, hold up your feminist head with pride! Real women bake cookies, too.
“ Mum, we love all the activities that go on in the kitchen, too. And we would love to be self-sufficient with free access to our food.”
On a Final Note: I’ve also been totally remiss about a lovely award I received a while back from Georgia. I meant to post about it then, and of course it slipped my mind until now (I may be a feminist, but my memory sucks). Thanks so much, Georgia, for this Proximity Award! Here are the award details:
“This blog invests and believes in PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”
I won’t tag anyone specific, but will open this up to anyone who’s willing to proudly call herself (or himself) a feminist!
** That would be whole, 2%, 1%, skim, sweetened condensed, evaporated, and dried-reconstituted. Nobody had even heard of alternative milks back then!
Tutti Fruiti Christmas Cookies
The perfect holiday cookie: quick and easy, and with a light texture and fruity flavor, easy to eat as well.
1/2 cup (120 ml.) chopped candied fruit, gummy candies, chopped dried cranberries, or any other small chopped festive food of your choice
1-1/4 cups (175 g.) light spelt flour
3/4 tsp. (7.5 ml) baking powder
1/4 tsp. (1 ml.) baking soda
1/8 tsp. (.5 ml.) fine sea salt
In a large bowl, mix together the Sucanat, water, extracts and lime zest. Stir to dissolve the Sucanat as much as possible. Add the flax seeds and melted oil, then stir in the chopped fruit or candies.
Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt over the liquid ingredients and stir to blend. You will have a soft dough.
Shape the dough into two logs about 1-1/2 inches (4 cm.) in diameter and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Unwrap the cookie logs and cut them into disks about 3/8 inch (3/4 cm.) thick and place about 2 inches (5 cm.) apart on cookie sheets.
Bake in preheated oven 10-13 minutes, rotating the sheets once about halfway through, until golden brown. Allow to cool 5 minutes on sheets before removing to a rack to cool completely. Makes about 30 cookies. May be frozen.