Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cookies that show who's naughty and nice...

As holiday madness descends, some people are prepared to spend days decorating cookies... And apparently that was as true in the '70s as it is now. (I will admit to preferring the exuberance and eccentricity of the '70s cookies, even if they lack the polish-- no, because they lack the polish-- of their sleek, modern incarnations. I'm a sucker for Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, too.)

But what about the '50s? The Family Circle Cake & Cooky Cookbook (1953) suggests decorated cookies were usually pretty sedate:

If you wanted to get fancy, you could dump a ton of sprinkles on them...

Or roll them in powdered sugar...

Or add a pool of jam...

Or shoot them through a spritz gun...

Or spread them with icing and add a few dragees if you wanted to be really classy.

The fanciest decorating seemed reserved for the families that wanted to scare kids away from the cookie (I'm sorry, cooky) jar:

The gingerbread man with the enormous raisin eyes protruding from his forehead and into his hat could make anyone back away slowly... very slowly... 

But a little more searching showed me that decorated cookies had some traction. They seemed more reserved for occasions outside of Christmas, though. (Maybe '50s cooks were too busy making fruitcake and Jell-O molds to make too much of a fuss over cookies?)

So what did '50s decorated cookies look like? 

Some were pretty straightforward:

Animal cookies would be easy for a birthday party: top cookie with icing, animal crackers, and coconut "grass," et voila! Quickie kid treat.

And this was clearly the game that kids played in the margins of their notebooks when they weren't paying attention in class.

I always thought the spelling was "tic-tac-toe," though. I guess anything goes in a book that considers the singular form of "cookies" to be "cooky."

People who wanted to get really fancy might break out the candies to make Goldilocks:

Or a very... uh... rustic flag.

I just love this one: the blobby blue field in the corner with a dozen dragee stars. (The top two rows do NOT seem to trust that bottom row, either.) And look at the cinnamon stripes: another three rows (with the bottom one in exile) and one of the candies ready to fall off the edge while others are half-buried in icing.

This one makes me wonder about the selection process too. Did the cooks just make one example of each cooky and take its picture, saying, "Good enough," or was this the best sample out of a series of attempts? I'm not sure which answer would amuse me more.

Some of the cookies were just puzzling:

I looked at this one for a while. My best guess was that it was a bug's face. The three dark bulges are its eyes and nose? beak? pincers? mandible? labrum? That third bump is whatever bugs have slightly beneath and between their eyes. The pair of candy strips forms the antennae, and the other blobs beside the strips are unexplained. Maybe the bug is wearing barrettes on its antennae? Or maybe those are just in the background and completely unrelated to the bug head?

Okay, so maybe it is not a particularly festive bug:

The halved cherries make this a George Washington Cooky. This seems oddly specific. Presidents' Day must have been a much bigger deal in the '50s.

And, of course, a cooky that reminds me why I am happy not to exist in the '50s:

A sure way to make friends in the '50s: Bring over a plate of cookies that screams, "Please enjoy this edible racist caricature!"


  1. Replies
    1. Our family used that cutter when I was a kid, and the cookies never looked quite right, but this interpretation of it seems especially scary.

  2. Now that was a trip down cookie memory lane, Poppy. I don't recall those decorated cookies form the 50s but I don't think they got much better in later years if you compare them to today's standards.

    The "tic-tac-toe" cookies are such a hoot. Although, anyone of them would make it into the naughty stocking, lol...

    Thanks for sharing Poppy...

    P.S. Now I need to decide which to Pin, lol...BTW are you pinning?

    1. If I look at them just right, the tic-tac-toe cookies look like magnified bacteria. I didn't mention that, but the more I look at them, the more I see it.

      I don't pin. I've thought about it, but haven't really had the chance. I tend to consider starting and then get overwhelmed with essays to grade before I forget about it for a while....

    2. Nice chuckle you sent my way, Poppy. I guess they aort of look like "bacteria" under a magnifying glass, lol...

      Pinterest is quite addicting. However, I find I leanr so much just looking at what others are pinning and not only food related. There is a ton of resources especially for teachers and parents in general. But, it really is addicting even if it doesn't take up a lot of time per se...when you're ready, let me know. In the mean time, I've been pinning your posts!!!