Cookies: a universal dessert made from sweet dough. This definition is a very broad umbrella for the vastness of one simple dessert. I say simple, but cookies can be as simple or complex as the baker wishes. They are art and each baker, an artist. The reasons for baking vary, but cookies are typically a huge component of celebration, especially around the winter holidays.
First of all, you might be wondering how they are art. Baking, in general, is an area that requires skill and technique, just like many methods of creating fine art. Art is a field wider than simply drawing and painting. Aspects of everyday life can be considered forms of art depending on the eye of the viewer. Typically, desserts are more often seen as an art form due to the various television shows and competitions that exist for cakes and pie, etc. With that frame of mind, it makes sense that cookies, too, are an excellent art form.
The realm of cookies varies from very simple recipes to very complex, and with the millions of variations of cookie recipes, there is so much that can be done with them. Even in more than the literal composition, the physical appearance of the cookie plays a role in the “artsy-ness” of it. Experimenting in the baking and decorating of the cookie is an art form and method of self-expression. Decorating cookies can increase the symbolism of them and increase the ability to express oneself. By making a simple base and using icing to depict images, words, or abstract designs, there is a method of releasing one’s energies and inner feelings. It is also a way to utilize one’s ability to illustrate, through a cookie rather than a piece of paper in this case.
Dessert is often used as a way to acknowledge or commemorate an occasion. Whether it be to cheer someone up after a bad breakup, celebrating a birthday, or anything in between, cookies are a way to shed light and comfort on a situation. Depending on what type of situation, cookies have different meanings. Bringing food is a universal way to show condolences to someone who has lost a loved one. While cookies are typically a celebratory food, it is okay to bring a batch to someone in this scenario if the cookies are not brightly decorated. For a party, the brighter and more decorated the cookie is, the better. It all depends on the circumstance.
In terms of using cookies to celebrate holidays, many cultures have specific cuisines they use to bake and decorate their delicacies. Here are some examples:
- Italian Christmas Cookie: Struffoli, honey dipped, fried balls covered with rainbow sprinkles. These bright, sweet cookies are made during Christmas time for the whole family to enjoy!
- Day of the Dead Cookie: Pabassinas, simple base cookie filled with raisins, almonds, and walnuts. These sweet, healthier cookies are placed on the altars, known as ofrendas, as offerings for the deceased loved ones.
- Chinese New Year Cookie: Chinese Almond Cookie, dry, crispy, and sweet almond cookie. These tasty, nut-based cookies are eaten by everyone when welcoming in the new year.
- Purim Cookie: Hamantaschen, filled, triangle-shaped cookie (typically filled with jam or poppy seeds). Crumbly and dry on the outside, biting in the center reveals a whole new taste for those reading the Megillah during Purim.
As you can see, there is a wide range of foods that are incorporated into cookies. Every region has their own customs and way to acknowledge celebrations. I chose just a few samples of cookies that I am familiar with, but there are so many more out there!