Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2011 (Fin)

For me, at least, the 2011 version of the Christmas baking season has ended.  The last hot baking sheet has been removed from the oven, the last warm cookie has been balanced precariously on a spatula and deposited with care on a plate, and the last cookie tin has been delivered to family and friends.

Every year there is one new cookie that seems to be the breakout cookie of the year, and this year it was the white chocolate ginger stars.  It not only was a fun and challenging cookie to make — especially the dipping into hot white chocolate mixture part — but it got really positive feedback from my cookie eaters.  I’d recommend it to anyone, with this note of caution.  The recipe for this cookie that I posted this year makes a lot of cookies — probably six dozen or more, using my Star of David cutter.  If that is too many for you, cut the recipe in half.

If you’re still in the midst of your holiday baking, I wish you good luck, and hope that you enjoy the baking as much as I do.

History Around Every Corner

One of the great things about New York City is that you can find interesting bits of history just about anywhere and everywhere.  Today we were walking to the Tenement Museum when we passed the historic Cooper Union building.

Anyone who enjoys American history — and particularly anyone who finds Abraham Lincoln fascinating, as I do — recognizes the Cooper Union as the site of a crucial turning point in Lincoln’s ascent to the presidency.  It was at the Cooper Union, on a snowy night on February 27, 1860, that Lincoln gave a speech about slavery that helped to catapult him to the Republican nomination.  Through his famous speech, Lincoln demonstrated that he was no awkward backwoodsman, but rather a national leader who could speak seriously, thoughtfully, and forcefully about the paramount issue of the day.  The Cooper Union speech helped to establish Lincoln as a bona fide candidate, and not some mere regional favorite son.

The Cooper Union building stands still, with its old-fashioned lettering and clock, and looks much the same as it did on that night nearly 152 years ago, when the strapping frontier lawyer came to Gotham and thrilled his sophisticated audience with his logic and the power of his arguments.

Walking In The Footsteps Of Our Immigrant Forebears

The Registry Room at Ellis Island

In our modern American era, where immigration is the source of so much controversy, it’s worth remembering that America is a nation of immigrants.  A visit to Ellis Island helps to make that abstract point a stark reality.

The vast majority of Americans trace their lineage to an ancestor who came here by boat.  Some came earlier than others, and some came not by choice but in chains.  Most of our forebears landed at a dock, strangers in a strange land, their only possessions what they were carrying in their satchels and bursting suitcases, often unable to speak English or any language other than their native dialect.  Those who came voluntarily came because they wanted freedom and opportunity, and hoped that their decision would allow them to build a better life for themselves and their children.

I don’t think any Webners, or Neals, or Browns in our direct family line came through Ellis Island.  It doesn’t make any difference, though, because the immigrant experience is universal, and Ellis Island is just a tangible manifestation of it.  The stacks of baggage, the immensity of the main Registry Room where new arrivals waited to be examined, prodded, and questioned,  with the rushed decisions of immigration officials reflected in chalk marks rudely made on the shoulder of a garment, and finally the cold, clinical, white-tiled rooms where applications for admission were processed, appeals were heard, and immigrants waited to have someone pass judgment on whether they could remain in the new land or must return — all help a visitor to appreciate how overwhelming the immigrant experience must have been.

What feelings of concern and trepidation they must have experienced, waiting in that large, jam-packed room, with many languages being spoken around them, hoping that they would hear good news about what their fate would be!

For me, the most moving area was a set of granite steps, well worn down by the footsteps of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who had made it through the process and were moving forward as welcome citizens in a new land.  Walking down those steps gives you a glimpse of what it must have been like to know that you and your family had the opportunity to start anew in this curious, bustling, growing country.

Lady Liberty, Close Up

Anyone who visits New York City should go to Liberty Island.  As striking as the Statue of Liberty is from a distance, it is much more impressive up close — colossal, stolid, etched sharply against the blue sky.

We heard many different languages being spoken as we waited in line and rode the ferry over to get our close-up look at Lady Liberty.  The allure of the Statute of Liberty seems to be universal.