Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Belmont Ward Prom: The Supremacy of Cookies


Before I had even completed the move to Belmont 12 years ago, I had heard about the annual wreathmaking party and what a huge deal it was. It is such a big deal that the chair of it is sometimes released from any other calling; it is such a big deal that it takes months to prepare for and has hundreds of sub-committees; it is such a big deal that one woman made a 4 foot replica of the Boston Temple out of gingerbread and even had melted candy to replicate the stained glass; it is such a big deal that disagreements over it has created animosity between former friends and the Belmont and Arlington wards. It is such a big deal that Dave has dubbed it Belmont Ward Prom.

Every year we are told we must scale back and make it more simple, and every year people try to do it, only what part do you cut back on? It's like a hostess' Sophie's choice: do you cut back on food, or decorations? Last year the fire department even tried to rein us in, making us take out a live Christmas tree and hanging lights. But wreathmaking, like charity, never faileth and this year's was as big and beautiful and fun as ever. My take is, nobody MAKES you go coo coo bananas in your part of the party. If you decide to write a new Christmas carol for it, fine. If you have to cut out life size silhouettes of the Nativity, go right ahead. (But I do draw the line on edible temples.)

Take me for example. I enjoy the pomp and circumstance, but I also am happy with mini quiche from Costco so I can go either way. This year I was in charge of setting up the gym which involves miles of rosin paper rolled and taped to the floor and onto 25 table. I thought I was doing an awesome job until one of my OCD committee members informed me that my tables were not aligned and could something PLEASE be done about that or it might reflect poorly on all of us. So I sighed and straightened the outliers but left it at that. Go rock in a corner if it bugs you that much.

But I was also asked by Coco, who headed up desserts, if I'd make some cut out shortbread cookies. I did research on what kind of royal icing to use, made sure I had 3 lbs of the right kind of butter (sweet cream unsalted), and made 10,000 gorgeous little snowflakes. (Did you know that dragees, those little edible silver balls are practically outlawed and can only be bought from shady dealers on the Internet? Hoard them if you have them.) Decorating alone took me 7 hours. Nobody made me add piping and sugar crystals etc. etc. It might be because I am such a mediocre cook that I am so uptight about my cookies. (Please let my one superior area shine!!!) But it's more likely that I just love cookies so darn much.
Cookies are the appetizers of dessert. A little bit of this and that you can try without feeling guilty if you don't like it. So you take a bite of a cookie, discover it has walnuts (nasty!), and you casually set it aside. Plus you get a variety of flavors without having to OD. And there are so many possibilities. Tonite there were carrot/orange cookies, lemon shortbread, carmel/chocolate, meringue, ginger-molasses, spritzer, Snickerdoodles (yum!), pumpkin, and on and on. I didn't try them all but even if I had, I'm still convinced it would be less calories than say, cheesecake. Finger foods rock. I enjoy bars, but again, after two bites I'm ready to move on and feel stuck. Don't get me wrong. I love me some cake. But my friends, cake is a commitment. I cannot in good conscience take a piece of cake (which are usually pre-cut and larger than I want), have a bite, decide it's not going to do it for me, and move on to a different cake. That's just bad behavior and so wasteful (says the daughter of parents raised during the depression). I am happy to practice monogamy in love, but not with dessert. And as far the environment goes, cake requires a plate and a fork that need washing or tossing. But a cookie my friend? No utensils required. Maybe not even a napkin. Now that's living.

Whipped Shortbread - Coleen M. Low via K. Low Burns

1 lb butter at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup corn starch (yes, corn starch)
3 cups flour

Mix w/ mixer. If using cookie cutters, be generous w/ flour for rolling pin & surface. Don’t roll thinner than ¼” or they’ll get too crispy.

Cook for 24 min at 300. Watch for bottom edges to turn brown.


14 comments:

ellen said...

I can't wait for the Arlington Ward prom tomorrow night! And, I volunteered to be in charge. It's worth every minute of prep and planning--the best New England tradition!! I want one of your cookies!

Carly said...

I'm offended that you didn't want to straighten out those tables yourself! What kind of women are they letting run that party these days? But those cookies, they are wreathmaking-party-quality.
We are coming to Boston for Christmas. In fact, I'll be there in just about 2 weeks.

Donna Black Davis said...

Wow! You guys really go all out. We're lucky if we have enough plastic table cloths from the dollar store to cover all our tables. We've had the same fake Christmas tree for a decade. It has one string of lights and about four shabby ornaments. I'm moving to Belmont asap!

Kirsten said...

Heather,
Mary Christensen told me all about the Belmont Ward wreath-making jamboree! When I lived in Cambridge, we had them, but it sounds like they paled in comparison to what you described. When I tell people here in the Midwest about the wreath-making activity, some suggest we try it. I shake my head and say, "No, once you get started, it's like crack. There's no turning back

Kirsten
(We met at the Exponent retreat...0

Rachel said...

We all have a little ADD and OCD. Your cookies are beautiful. Way to go Mama.

stephanie said...

Those cookies are gorgie. Slightly jealous you have a reason to make something fancy. I am considering ditching my ward's "Suffer your Children" Christmas Party. Ok, it's not really called that, but I am sure they will find some way to torture my kids.

Betty Grace said...

Uh. I'm in charge of my ward party this weekend and your post stressed me out. Now, I'm afraid that ordering pizza and stringing popcorn isn't going to cut it? :) Wanna be my guest co-chair???

Anne said...

your cookies are divine. i scarfed one at the clambake -- prior to the bishop annoucing the winner of the dessert contest. wasn't that winner you?

Mary and Jared said...

Mary and I have rolled out paper on the floor of the Cambridge chapel three or four times. A truly thankless job. Glad that someone was not appreciative of your consecrated service to "volunteer" for wreathmaking. (I love Mormon volunteerism.)

The cookies look amazing, but you did go a little nuts on them. As long as you can admit that....

Rhonda said...

I MISS Belmont . . . and the wreathmaking . . . and the wonderful friends . . . and now, obviously, some killer cookies. Gorgeous!!! (I'm assuming you did NOT have Linda help decorate them!)

Dava said...

Your cookies look too good to eat! My mouth is watering.

I want to see a picture of your wreaths.....you made some, didn't you? xo

Texas Bucks said...

Your descriptions of life always bring a smile and a laugh, from one who appreciates a diverse vocabulary, allusions, and other other types of figurative language. More than that, this particular entry has me in awe of the cookies! We are the sugar-cookies-for-every-holiday family (love to make and more especially to eat them) and I am now extremely curious as to where you got the cookie cutters shaped like snowflakes? I'll admit that I haven't even looked at new c.c. for years since we have about 25 from over 10 years ago; I suppose I need to go see what's out there. I will look and will make some of these next week--they are gorgeous! Your party sounds like my mom's old ward in SLC, the Arlington Hills ward that had catered dinners and fresh pineapple flown in from Hawaii for their "proms"...

EmilyCC said...

Belmont prom! Love it!

I was asked to be a downstairs co-decorating chair after being in the ward 6 months. I so didn't get it when my co-chair talked about bringing in a tree to decorate and wrapping boxes for presents underneath the tree and making 6 cranberry topiaries. She very graciously put up with me, but I was never a co-chair again.

coco said...

Heather,
Thank you so so very much for making those delicious and gorgeous cookies! I feel like it was a "love gift" from you to me. I will always be grateful for that!