Own a Tradition this Holiday

Olivia Cookie Photo.jpgBy Olivia Hamernik

Both of my parents are master cooks. Whether its preparing dinner for an ordinary Thursday night, appetizers at my cousin’s graduation party, or perfectly crafting a flavorful Christmas ham, my mom and dad know what they are doing. I’d like to try to pin it on my age, or maybe try to blame the fact that I may not be needed in the kitchen next to their talents, but it’s clear that I don’t possess the same expertise and artistry.

 However, I will say that there is one Hamernik holiday baking tradition that I have taken full ownership of in my family when I come home for winter break. I can’t argue that it’s complex, but some may say that it requires some genuine focus and creativity.

 I am proud to say that every year, I run the “operations” of our annual Christmas cookie decorating jam session. For up to five hours, I lead my mom, dad, and younger brother in rolling out, baking and frosting more than 200 sugary cookies while simultaneously dancing to holiday music and staying warm by the fireplace.

 It truly is a family affair.

 On the center countertop in our kitchen, I start by rolling out all of the dough that I prepared the night before. Then, I pick and choose to create snowmen, stars, stockings, candy canes, and trees from our cutout shapes. All of the Christmas cookie metal cutouts came from my grandfather and over the years, the designs have held a special place in my heart.

 Once the cookies bake to a crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-in-the-inside phase, I let them cool. We try not to eat all of the cookies ourselves throughout the process, but thanks to my Italian grandmother’s delicious cookie dough recipe, it’s always proven to be difficult. These cookies taste spectacular even without frosting, but we simply cannot hold back in adding some more love.

 Every year, I make sugary white, red, green and light blue frosting and purchase a variety of sprinkles and baubles to add some flair to our cookies. I frost smiles and vests on the snowmen, sparkles to the stars, stripes to the candy canes, and write names to the stockings. I always enjoyed art class in high school and this is another form of artistic freedom for me.

(At this point, I usually have lost my sixteen-year old brother, John, in the process, because decorating cookies is too “girly”, but you win some, you lose some.)

At the end of the session, we are left with hundreds of brilliant, intricately decorated cookies. We make sure to point out some of our favorite designs from the other family members and smile at our accomplishments.

Reverting back to when I was much younger, I remember my patient father carefully showing me how to use the roller to spread out the cookie dough, adding a generous sprinkle of flour so that it wouldn’t stick. This warm, little memory, among many others I associate with our cookie decorating, has stayed with me.

When I see the snow on Miami’s campus, I cannot help but think back to decorating these cookies with my family while snowflakes fall softly outside our home. I more and more understand the power of family every year I grow older, especially during the holidays. This cherished experience interweaves multiple generations of my family, and I am certain that I will continue the tradition when I have my own.

 So, this holiday season, I encourage you all to find a special recipe, big or small, that you want to “claim” to make for your family in the kitchen. Make it your own, just I like did.

Also, before us Miami students leave for the long winter break, it will be a stressful time for all of us. Thankfully, Miami offers delicious food and a place to gather with friends until we venture back home for the holidays. Make the most of the final days on campus and spread some holiday cheer along the way!



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