Bake Cookies Together

Food writer Molly O'Neill's mom bakes with her grandchildren.

By Molly O'Neill

My mother, Virginia O'Neill, began baking Christmas cookies the day after Thanksgiving. In our rough-and-tumble household — I have five younger brothers — this 25-day exercise was the single activity that required quiet, a delicate touch, and a slow pace. We were all intimidated. But we each wanted to be "the one" chosen to assist. Our mother would not brook more than one helper. It was one of the few times we got to be alone with her. My loud, strapping brothers and I (no shrinking violet) all learned how to bake.

Molly O’Neill

French Almond Cookies »

For the past several decades, my nieces and nephews have lined up for the job. My mother, whose greatest joy in launching her own brood is a perfectly ordered kitchen, sighs, “Love them, hate the mess.” She has, therefore, developed a few rules:

  • Give a child a discrete task — using a small hand-mill to grind nuts is a good one. They are nuts anyway.
  • Children can unwrap butter
  • They can grease cookie trays
  • Little ones can help shape cookies
  • They can help decorate certain cookies
  • They love arranging cookies on plates to give away
  • They love to carry the cookies when I am making my delivery rounds
  • The little ones love to help clean up but, let's face it, they are no help. The older ones are great, but they text too much to be reliable. It is better for the world if, for one day a year, I suspend my horror of mess in the kitchen. It is a great sacrifice, as you can imagine. I do it for them.



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