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December 08, 2004: Taking a cookie pass

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It occurred to me this morning, while sitting at work and slowly downloading several hundred files of all manner of fascinating data from World Bank (like the average number of cell phones per 1000 people in every country in the world, or the number of people per country who live on less than $1 per day), that I should be thinking about cookies by now. After all, by this time in December in years past I have already mapped out the days on which large quantities of baking will take place in our house, if the baking has not already, by this time, begun.

And then it occurred to me that this year, for some odd reason, I have had no desire to bake any cookies at all. Usually by now I am overwhelmed with the need to exercise my domestic talents. Putting up the Christmas decorations and the tree is usually all it takes to flip that switch inside my head and before you know it I am buying my yearly box of raisins for eyeballs for the gingerbread men, and dragging out the cookie press, and dithering over whether or not I will have enough walnuts to make yet another batch of powdered sugar-encrusted teacakes. But this year, that switch seems to have remained mysteriously off. I am full of holiday cheer - even wearing holiday socks or earrings occasionally to work - and the sight of the tiny lights sparkling in our tree fills me with joy. But I have absolutely no desire to get busy with the baking. And this is coming as sort of a shock.

I know that, in part, this has to do with the fact that this year we have been realizing that we need to take the healthy eating and exercise programs more seriously. Richard has high blood pressure, and his doctor is worried about his cholesterol, and I've got diabetes and heart disease on both sides of my family that I need to be actively guarding against. The tradition of baking huge quantities of cookies to snack on is not exactly conducive to keeping on the healthy track. Plus neither of us really has any outlet for foisting all those cookies on other people any more. Not only do we both work in extremely small offices, but more and more now, all our friends and coworkers (and even family members) are becoming just as concerned with their own health as we are with ours. So piles of freshly baked cookies, even just warm from the oven and possibly oozing melted chocolate everywhere, are not met with the same degree of enthusiasm as when we were all younger and blissfully ignorant of our levels of triglycerides and where what we were putting in our faces ranked on the glycemic index.

Ironically, while I am pretty much feeling no desire to bake cookies, I have been obsessed for the past month with the thought of trying to organize a cookie exchange. Only the fact that there is not enough time to get it together, nor enough of my friends who actually bake, has stopped me from doing any more than just idly mentioning out loud at random intervals whenever I am around them. It would be so easy. You show up bearing however many dozen cookies you want, divided into dozen batches, and you get a ticket for every dozen. Then you can exchange those tickets for cookies that someone else brought, thereby saving everyone the hassle of having to make more than one type of cookies for the holidays. It would work out so wonderfully, I am sure of it, assuming that I really had any desire to actually bring dozens of cookies back into the house for us to stare at longingly before they eventually went stale or we surreptitiously inhaled them, all the while pretending that large piles of holiday cookies should be a staple in any program geared toward healthy eating and possible weight loss and muscle gain.

I emailed Richard, since I figured it was only fair to make sure he wasn't going to be disappointed if pans of fudge and boxes of cookies did not magically appear on the kitchen counter. Luckily he shares my ambivalence with the need for holiday treats, so it's official. Despite dreams of cookie swap parties dancing in my head, this year the cookie cutters will remain in their boxes, and the sprinkles will remain in the cupboard, and the remains from last year's raisin box will have at least another year to turn into little raisin-shaped rocks before I eventually take pity on them and throw them away. It is going to feel a little odd to not have the occasional gingerbread man to look forward to, or fudge to nibble, but I think this is probably for the best. I may eventually break down and suffer an attack of baking frenzy later on this month, but instead of making cookies I shall instead channel all that energy for good, and instead of cookies will use the time to 'whip up' a batch of cinnamon apple chips (they take several hours of cooking at a very low temperature so it's not exactly a quick adventure) for healthier holiday snacking. We'll keep the larder well-stocked with sugar-free, fat-free pudding and fat-free whipped topping to ward off the need for something sinful and sweet. And maybe next year I'll find a little bit of that enthusiasm for baking that I seem to have lost, and the holidays will once again be filled with the smell of gingerbread and mulled cider and cookies and all the millions of calories that make the holidays that much merrier.

This has been a Holidailies entry.

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