When I was a very young girl, I broke a little boy's heart on Valentine's Day. It is not a moment for which I am proud. In fact, like my Momma, guilt sticks with me as tightly as my own shadow, no matter how many years have passed since the event that forced the creation of those feelings and their permanent lodging in my gut.
And so I still think of that towheaded little boy who, on February 14th, 1988 gifted me a very special heart-shaped puzzle, red with tiny white and pink flowers, that professed his adoration of a very young, pigtailed Andrea. I was only five, and still believed whole-heartedly that little boys had highly-contagious cooties, passable even by touching the same paper card. Mortified, I clutched the present, not even pausing to whisper "thank you" to the shy child, and turned as quickly as I could to the girl at the neighboring cubby.
I thrust the puzzle in her direction, saying something along the lines of "he wants me to give this to you" and fled the scene as quickly as possible. Finding comfortable ground in a nearby gaggle of little girls, I turned back towards my cubby just in time to see the devastated look on a heartbroken freckled face. Oh, the guilt.
I received quite the lecture from my Momma that night, about feelings and how not to hurt those of others. I came to embrace Valentine's Day with its red and pink decorations, the elementary school parties with tiny cards displaying cartoon characters and the frosted cookies from our Room Mom. Future Valentines found a much more amiable object of their affections, one who said "thank you" after receiving a gift and who even sometimes had one to give in return. There were flowers and balloons and candy, hand-holding and blushes and shy middle school kisses.
The holiday intensified in high school, when suddenly having a boyfriend on February 14th was a very big deal. Girls would walk around all day with balloons from their beloved tied to their backpacks, a vase of flowers in their hands. I received gold jewelry from two sweet boys two separate years, and eagerly compared the baubles to those my girlfriends had received. Gold! In high school!
Valentine's Day was a competition, full of pressure to find a date, to go out for a fancy dinner, to give and receive gifts that displayed an accurate level of affection. Until I met Brian.
When you meet your One, the novelty of Valentine's Day wears off quickly. It's corny to say, I know, but Brian and I truly do strive to make all of our days together special, to write love notes and give gifts on days other than those we're "supposed" to. We have a comfortability that comes after years of marriage, and with the knowledge that we're each other's Only. There are no expectations of flowers and heart-shaped boxes of candy, no exchange of red lingerie for boxer shorts covered in tiny Cupids, no giddy phone calls to my girlfriends to compare our jewelry, no disappointment if none of the above happens. We simply enjoy spending the evening with each other. Anything extra is just icing on the cake, or sugar sprinkled on a cookie.
These are Brian's very favorite cookies, an old family recipe slipped to us by his Aunt Lynn. So soft and moist, they very nearly have the consistency of cake. The hint of nutmeg is the perfect amount, I urge you not to mess with it.
The dough is extremely sticky and troublesome to work with, so don't be afraid to use flour liberally as you roll it out. If you'd like to decorate the cookies with icing when they are cool, I recommend Martha Stewart's Royal Icing, which, although tooth-achingly sweet, dries beautifully.
from Aunt Lynn and Uncle Scott (thank you!)
makes 3 dozen, 3-inch cookies
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add beaten egg, salt and nutmeg and blend well.
- Mix together the baking soda and buttermilk in a small bowl until foamy thin. Add to the creamed mixture, along with the vanilla.
- Sift the flour into the creamed mixture and blend well. Place plastic wrap in mixing bowl directly on top of the dough, and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, preheat your oven to 375* and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Remove 1/3 of the dough from the mixing bowl and place on a moderately-floured surface, leaving remaining 2/3 dough in refrigerator. Roll to a heavy 1/4-inch thickness, liberally flouring the dough as you go to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. Cut quickly with cookie cutters of choice, moving cookies to sheet pans and spreading them about 2-inches apart. Sprinkle with sugar if you don't plan to ice them after baking. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are just starting to turn golden at the edges. Be careful not to over-bake them, as you want to maintain the soft interior texture.
- Let cookies cool on pan for 5 minutes before moving them to racks to cool completely. Store in airtight containers for up to one week (good luck keeping them around for that long...).
This recipe appeared on SuzySaid - Charlottesville this week, as part of my weekly recipe contribution.