February 12

The Cookie Box

A group of friends has been very busy this weekend preparing for the arrival of a refugee family. There have been countless Facebook posts within our group. There’s been a group who have spent all weekend cleaning an apartment that the landlord did not prepare sufficiently. Bill and I made quilts for the children in the family. Others have been shopping, moving donated furniture into the apartment, buying halal meat and planning the welcome meal. I’ve done a little bit of everything and am now working on the Cookie Box.

We are a family of bakers. All three of us love to bake from scratch. Sophie bakes several times a month and I bake periodically, often as gifts, for dinner guests or to share with our neighbor who doesn’t bake. Bill recently discovered through inter-library loan  what is probably my favorite baking book ever. It’s called Cookie Love and the recipes are from Mindy Segal, the James Beard award-winning pastry chef and owner of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago. We met Mindy when her restaurant was relatively new and she actually cooked dinner for me. We’re such fans of Mindy that she’s simply known as “Mindy” in our house; as in “Is that what Mindy would do?” or “I think Mindy would approve!”

Cookie Love has both luscious photos and recipes that are delicious and unique but not “quick and easy.” The text is also worth reading and inspired the idea of the Cookie Box for the refugee family. Mindy writes about how she associates a cookie tray with hospitality and that she always has a cookie tray on the dessert menu at her restaurant for that reason. I thought about one of my grandmothers when I read that. She always had a cookie jar filled with a special family cookie that I have never eaten anywhere else. Having a treat to share with others is also a gift and part of feeling like a host in one’s home. So when I thought about dessert for the family and the tea time that is common in this family’s culture, I thought  it would be nice not to just prepare dessert for one night but to have a stash that the large family could serve to visitors and new friends. There are also children in the family and I thought that they would enjoy being able to try several kinds of cookies and choose favorites.

So I’ve been baking several different kinds of cookies and freezing them until the family arrives.  The featured picture shows my After-Dinner Ginger Biscotti (from Cookie Love). In the freezer already are almond thumbprint cookies in 3 flavors — apricot, raspberry and strawberry. Sophie is working on heart-shaped sugar cookies and I’ll cut up some brownies to include in the box as well. Depending on work, I may be able to squeeze in some basic chocolate chip cookies as well. I bought a large, shallow Rubbermaid container and will have fun arranging all of the cookies in a pleasing way.

Some might wonder why I’m spending so much time on a family I’ve never met. Honestly, the answer is that it makes me happy to feel like I can do something positive that is certain to be well-received. The world seems to be filled with so many problems right now that I am powerless to fix. Making sure that are family who has endured great strife and lost everything they had can enjoy a cup of tea and a few cookies in their new home is something I can do easily.