Apparently December 6-12, 2010 has been designated Cookie Exchange Week. Why? I don’t know, or really care, but I find it amusing. You see, exactly one year ago I was invited to my first cookie exchange and was so overwhelmed at the idea of it all that I was compelled to blog about it for the now closed Los Angeles Moms Blog. Since I now find there is a whole week devoted to it, it certainly seems appropriate that we revisit my old post. This year I even feel more amused by the cookie exchange subculture upon finding blog posts here and here that explain with painstaking detail how you might go about having a cooking exchange, like starting two weeks ahead and assuring you don’t get duplicate recipes. Oh my. Hold me.
Cookie Exchange Angst
(Originally posted December 11, 2009 here)
I have come to accept the fact that I am an imposter among my peers. Everyone I know has their domestic lives firmly in order, meanwhile the only cleaning supplies I own are a bottle of windex and baby wipes. I recently received an e-mail that sent me so far over the edge that I’ve begun to question who I really am and where I came from. The e-mail subject: You are invited to a Cookie Exchange. I’d never heard of such a thing. Me, who has lived in several foreign countries, considers herself fairly hip to American Culture and was on Jeopardy! Somehow the cookie exchange never made it into my consciousness. The e-mail said simply: You are invited to a cookie exchange, bring three dozen cookies. Must be homemade. Great, I thought, I don’t even know what this is and I can’t buy my way out of it either. Of course, I proceeded to Google “cookie exchange” and became even more confused. Seems like there are all kinds of variations. Bring cookies beautifully wrapped, bring the recipe, bring several copies of the recipe, bring an elegant tin to exchange with another participant. Interestingly, no where does it really explain what your end result is? Do you eat cookies at the exchange? Or do you just exchange them? If you bring three dozen, do you leave with three dozen? Here’s where I’m really confused: What do I then do with the three dozen cookies? Yes, I know, I could eat them. I could give them away. I could throw them away. I want to know what people do with their cookie exchange cookies. Do all my domestic goddess friends live in idyllic neighborhoods where carolers come by and you happen to have hot cocoa and your cookie exchange cookies all arranged on a Christmas Tree shaped plate? The carolers finish belting out “Silver Bells”, yank off their mittens and then huddle in your elegantly appointed foyer sipping and munching?
I have so many questions. The questions beget more questions and then I find myself calling friends who I think are “in the know”. Each friend I have called does in fact know of cookie exchanges. Yet, each one has given me different scenarios. None can really answer my questions, such as: How large a container do I bring? What if everyone else has large or odd shaped cookies and they don’t fit in my container? I have cookie exchange anxiety. The words “Cookie Exchange” peer back at me from my calendar. It is scheduled for next week. I don’t cook. I don’t bake. I don’t have flour in my house. Clearly, it doesn’t appear likely that I will be participating in the exchange. The obstacles in my way are too great. Yet, I’m oddly intrigued. I even feel left out in advance. Secretly, I want to just go and see what it is and not have to participate. Or, maybe a friend will be like, “Hey, Liz, you wanna take a dozen cookies? I can’t possibly take three dozen home especially with Artie on Atkins and all.” Maybe I can be an “alternate” at the cookie exchange? Taking the unwanted dozens and half dozens from my friends and acquaintances. How can I pitch that to the host? Is that even appropriate? I mean, I could offer to be an alternate cookie-taker and sign a release that I’m fully aware I may not get any cookies. Right? Is that being fun and creative or just being annoying and freaky?
Not ready to give up I had an idea. What really is the definition of “homemade”? Made in the home? What is the definition of “made”? I starting thinking about Sandra Lee and her “semi-homemade” franchise. If half of the ingredients are homemade that should be sufficient, I’m thinking. If I bake them in the oven, even if most of the preparation is not homemade, that ought to qualify, I’m sure. I looked at some of Sandra’s recipes. They look like a lot of work. Pretty much as much work as totally homemade. Making cookies is not easily shortcut-able like, say, doctoring up a store bought roast chicken with a jar of ponzu sauce and some crushed wontons. Dang.
If I really, really want in and have no shame. I could show up and claim mommy brain. “Liz, where are your cookies?” Me: “Cookies? Oh, my gosh! I thought we were playing bunco! I swear, my brain went out with the placenta! But, wow, don’t those pecan sandies look divine!” What could they do? Send me away without cookies? I think I’ve found my in. Heh.
Update 12/12/10: Today a woman named Julia Usher started following me on Twitter. Why, remains a mystery. However, I looked at her profile and was fascinated to find she is the author of a book called “Cookie Swap” and that there is a website, CookieSwapping.com that currently states on its homepage that cookie swaps are NOT just for Christmas anymore! I am becoming obsessed by this sub-culture. I want to meet Julia Usher and take her to lunch.
This is an original post for the Los Angeles Moms Blog.
When Elizabeth Peterson isn't in training sessions for the Pillsbury Bake Off, she can be found over at her personal blog, Traded My BMW for a Minivan.
Comments (these are the original comments from the LA Moms Blog post)
Nicole Pelton said...
I love this post, such creative ideas. I'd have you over just for the entertainment. I always though it would be fun to have a cookies exchange, but I love to bake. My cookie donations for bake sales are often the ones given away free since they are small or pitiful looking :) I remember reading some articles or blog posts or something on cookie exchanges, and people had all these rules...they had to be big and fancy - forget tollhouse choc chip, wrapped up, people served all this gourmet food for snacking. Believe me, my cookie exchange would never be like that.
Reply December 11, 2009 at 10:40 AM
This is only my 2nd year participating in a cookie exchange. Last year, I used the dough from one of my girls' fundraiser. This year, in a scheduling screw-up, I had to call in re-inforcements: my dad made the cookies for me :)
Reply December 11, 2009 at 11:33 AM
you should just bake the cookies you made yesterday, those are totally homemade. I think she just meant don't bring chips ahoy.
Reply December 11, 2009 at 12:54 PM
so funny -- I've missed your clever posts. As for cookie exchanges, I think that's a fancy person's problem and you should just relax. It'd be great to go to Costco or something and buy a tray of cookies and bring those. Why not?
Reply December 11, 2009 at 03:20 PM
I loved your post.
Reply December 11, 2009 at 05:22 PM
Aack! I've been plotting to serve 3 dozen cookies on a Christmas-tree shaped plate for a caroling party. Now I have to think up something original. . .
Liz, an aging late-to-the-pary suburbanite.
Reply December 11, 2009 at 08:28 PM
Sarah Auerswald said...
This is a crack-up! I have actually heard of cookie exchanges, but never participated in one -- and now, if I were asked to, I'd freak out because who knew there were so many variations? Plus I am really not the right kind of person for it -- I would only want to take the kind of cookies I like and leave the rest... Bad! I know.
Reply December 11, 2009 at 09:44 PM
Teresa DeGagne said...
Great post! Good luck with that. I seriously have a terrific cookie recipe involving 4 ingredients. One of them is cake mix. Cake mix for cookies...who knew?
Reply December 12, 2009 at 07:46 AM
Erin S. said...
Fun post! My girlfriend does a cookie exchange every year that needs an auxillary title: "Wine & Cheese/Box-Up-Other-Moms'-Cookies-to-Take-Home-to-Your-Kids Night"!!
Oh my AquaBuddha that was brilliant! Made me really laugh when I wasn't expecting it! Well done! :)
Never fear Elizabeth - you can do slice n bake and decorate with red hots - everyone loves those too. I have to know though - does anyone really call you "Liz"?
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