Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin each Thursday. Read past columns here.
Years ago I belonged to not one, but two cookie swap groups. Each November or December I baked up to twenty dozen cookies to share at events in two different homes. I spent several nights of the holiday season well past midnight and into the wee hours of morning yawning and packaging sweets while the saner members of my family slept.
Eventually traditions changed, as they sometimes do. My children left for college and I focused on my career. I was burned out, so to speak, on holiday baking. However, I’ve felt a bit guilty without any homemade cookies to give away or serve at home during the holiday season.
When I heard about the Cookie Walk at the First Baptist Church of Medfield they had me at “sugar cookie.” I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I was assured that all I had to do was show up at with some cash on the second Saturday morning in December. In return I was guaranteed to leave with a box full of home-baked holiday cookies. It was a Holiday Win-Win. A fundraiser and a timesaver.
Never one to be late, I showed up right before 9 a.m. that first year. The brick path leading to the church hall was empty and silent in the early morning chill and congratulated myself on my early arrival.
It came as an utter shock when I opened to door to a bustling, anxious, ready-to-cookie-walk crowd. I was directed to the end of a line that snaked through the parish hall that led through several church classrooms and that circled around the interior of each room. The line seemed never to end and before I stopped I must have squeezed by over one hundred people.
Oh, this was serious cookie stuff. This crowd knew to arrive as early at 7:45 a.m. I worried that there would be only a few broken and forlorn cookies left for me. I admit I felt a little better when other naïve latecomers sheepishly crept by.
I quickly learned the rules which were displayed for our reading pleasure on the walls of the hallways. I must first pay for an empty bakery box or two, don vinyl gloves and follow cookie etiquette. No samples, no shoving, no hoarding. No greedy lingering around the frosted Santa faces or the sugar-coated reindeer. I must simply move around the outer edge of a large square configuration of tables, filling my box short of the rim. In the end the top must close flat and be taped shut by an official Cookie Walk volunteer.
I’m happy to report that when I reached the front of the line that first year there were still plenty of cookies left for me and for the people behind me because there were endless containers of cookies in the center of the room. While the crowd was cookie-walking the church volunteers were constantly refilling the fifty-odd platters with a fresh supply of thousands of cookies.
These good ladies of the First Baptist Church of Medfield’s Women’s Society knew what they were doing. They had been meeting for weeks baking and decorating as a team. I marveled at the coordination and organization. And I left with some seriously delicious Christmas cookies that looked like nothing I could have created myself.
This past weekend I woke up early on a frigid Saturday morning and headed out well before 8 am. I waited in line with a friend for well over an hour sharing war stories of past years with others around me. In the end we filled our boxes with beautiful, familiar cookies to share with family and friends. As usual, the cookies were sold out within about 90 minutes.
I found out through some research that thousands of churches, school and libraries organize cookie walks as fundraisers all over the country. There’s even an out-of-print book by the Cookie Cooks of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Waterboro, Maine, “When Cookies Walk.” I apparently came late to the Cookie Walk party but I’ll be going back year after year as it becomes a part of my new holiday traditions.
If you’d rather get a jump on baking holiday treats next year there are some great books at the library. “Christmas Cookies from the Whimsical Bakehouse” was written by bakery-owners and mother and daughter team, Kaye and Liv Hansen.
Another mother and daughter couple, Margie and Abbie Greenberg, followed their first book, “The Flour Pot Cookie Book” with a new one in 2009. “The Flour Pot Christmas Cookie Book: Creating Edible Works of Art for the Holidays” includes many fondant and icing recipes which are essential to decorating cookies that are both delicious to eat and lovely to look at.
“Cookie Craft Christmas: Dozens of Decorating Ideas for a Sweet Holiday” by Valerie Peterson has close-up photographs of each cookie. For year-round cookie baking sure to impress with over 150 colorful cookies check out “Cookie Craft: From Baking to Luster Dust, Designs and Techniques for Creative Cookie Occasions” by Janice Fryer and Valerie Peterson.
If you’ve been invited to join a group read “Cookie Swap: Creative Treats to Share Throughout the Year” by Julie Unger or a new addition just this fall, “Cookie Swap!” by Lauren Chattman. If you are really in the mood for serious cookie-baking, “Good Housekeeping: The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook: 60 Large-Batch Recipes to Bake and Share.”
For help searching in the Minuteman catalog or for placing requests, visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website, www.norwoodlibrary.org.
Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her entire article in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.