Keith’s Jewish Grandma’s Christmas Cookies

I found this recipe handwritten on yellowing notepaper in one of her old cookbooks, which I hadn’t cracked open since taking it from the trim, bare study in their house in California. Metal desk, plain walls. They were frugal people, and he had been a “layout man.” A tool-and-die shop craft. I have a small stack of his ancient job-hunting postcards around somewhere: When Your Layout Man Is Stuck, Trust to “Know-How,” Not to Luck. The cuckoo clock was in that study, too. I remember being shown the clock every time we visited when I was little. And some helixes he’d made out of cardboard tubes, mounted upright on plywood bases with the angles between the cut segments noted in black ink.

Grandma died years ago, and I don’t remember why I finally took down Woman’s Favorite Cook Book (“She should study her guests, as it were; should allot the charming talker to the equally charming listener, and the opinionated person to the passive and yielding disposition…”) and opened it.

I remember visiting once after Show Control was published. Grandpa objected to my referring to “oral manipulation of genitalia” because women might be reading the book. I said, uh, I never used that term. He said, Oh yes you did! And pulled it out and pointed silently at the word “cocksucker.”

Oh, I get…yeah, okay.

I said, Um, I think maybe women aren’t necessarily as naïve as you think they are, and over his shoulder I saw Grandma glance back over the built-in barstool counter that served as a wall between kitchen and dining room with a little gleam in her eye.

I always liked her.

Anyway, I’ve reproduced it as she wrote it, which I like because it evokes the complete performance. It’s not a list of all the ingredients and then a separate litany of instructions; it’s how she actually envisioned herself doing it, from beginning to end, jotted down like a chord chart.

Recipe provenance unknown.

from the library of Miriam Stein

1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup chopped fruit
1 teas. lemon flavor

2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teas. soda, salt, cloves & nutmeg & cardamom
1 teas. cinnamon

1/4 cup butter or olio
1/2 cup brown sugar packed, cream

add 1 egg, blend
1/3 cup molasses

1/4 cup strong coffee
1/4 cup sherry

add fruit & coffee & sherry to flour mixture

bake in sheet 15 min



Filed under Baking, Christmas, Cookies, Family, Favorite, Food

13 responses to “Keith’s Jewish Grandma’s Christmas Cookies

  1. These cookies sound pretty darned good.

  2. Hmmmmm! If you make a batch of these cookies without nuts or fruit (I’m allergic!), I’d have a go at ’em!

  3. Naomi, I know, don’t they? I’m planning on making a batch or three in the next week or two.

    Jimi, is it just me, or do these sound about right for sazeracs and cigars?

  4. David Elver

    Looks tasty! You great big oral manipulator of genitalia, you.

  5. The Other Larry

    And here I was thinking coffee…

  6. The Other Larry

    By the way, these seem really Jewish. None of that goyishe white flour, eggs sugar, butter baked to a slight beige. Perhaps a little cinnamon (tempered with more sugar). No. Coffee, Molasses, Sherry, Dried Fruit, cloves, for G-d’s sake. Hmm. Presbyterian Hannukkah cookies.

  7. Marcella

    I love to see recipes passed along in families. Maybe your boys could learn to make them and pass them along to their children?

    • Not a bad idea. They already know how to make matzoh brei. (The right way, not like those other Jews make it.)

      Larry, that’s true! And I’m thinking coffee too. It would have been this week if I weren’t contagious.

  8. Marcella

    I forgot to mention I made a copy of your grandmother’s recipe and plan to make a batch to add to my secular Christmas baking.

  9. Made them today. These things are TOTALLY WICKED.

    I chopped some candied ginger for the fruit, and used walnuts. I think a less bitter nut might be even better, but wow, these things were like

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