By Taylor Buck
It’s not truly Christmas until you’re basking in the glow of the lights on the tree, dazed from sugar, and wondering if you should have stopped at six cookies. The most wonderful time of the year, indeed.
As Starbucks comes under fire in the media controversy surrounding their new holiday polar bear cookies, which feature a red scarf that some have interpreted as an artistic rendition of a slit throat, it’s important to remember the long and happy history Christmas cookies have in order to ensure that baking remains a holiday tradition.
Today’s gingerbread men and sugar cookies began as a simple case of survival of the fittest, as across the world, groups of people met for extravagant feasts on the winter solstice before the colder weather brought famine. These solstice feasts had been incorporated into the Christmas holiday by the Middle Ages, a time when the world of sweets was undergoing massive changes.
Trade with the Middle East, particular Egypt, India, and Arabia had brought spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper to Europe. The Europeans also included dried fruits they received from trade, such as apricots and dates, in their desserts.
However, since these were newly discovered goods, they were incredibly costly, just as the newest iPhone is always the most expensive. Since sugar and butter were practically iPhone 6s’ in rose gold during the Middle Ages, they were equally overpriced, and families could only afford to bake on the most special holidays.
Which brings us back to Christmas, the time that families in the Middle Ages rightfully deigned the most exciting and important. In the 17th century, the Dutch brought the original Christmas cookies to the United States during a period when a change in importation laws brought cheap cookie cutters to American shelves. Thus, the Christmas cookie was born.
Today, recipes for Christmas cookies are limitless, but classic recipes such as gingerbread, the #1 most searched recipe during the holiday season, resemble the original Christmas cookie incarnation due to their spicy taste.
According to Google, the most commonly searched for cookie recipe in North Carolina last Christmas was “easy and fun peanut butter balls,” but we humans evolve, and our Christmas cookies should follow suit.
If you’re a breakfast-for-dinner kind of person, these bacon chocolate chip cookies might be for you, but if you’d rather keep the spike in popularity for avocados alive for as long as popular, try chocolate avocado cookies.
For the daring, the Cooking Channel developed a Philly Cheesesteak cookie which incorporates tomato cream cheese and beef jerky. If you’re looking for something a little tamer but still need to use the extra ingredients from your Christmas dinner, consider taking the medieval tradition of cooking with spices to the next level with garlic brittle cookies.
Rumor has it that the average American gains ten pounds every Christmas, so whatever you decide to bake, make sure that your ten pounds count!