I love all Christmas cookies: peanut butter blossoms, Russian teacakes, gingersnaps, spritz, cranberry oatmeal cookies. My favorite, however, are frosted sugar cookies. Not the Martha Stewart version with shimmering sprinkles and flawless icing, but the homely ones. The misshapen ones that look like they were frosted with a spackle knife. The ones you see pictured above, near the back. I made these cookies with an old friend and her mom. This was our second year making sugar cookies together. On a Saturday evening in December, we turned on Bing Crosby holiday music, poured wine, and got to work. Our first cookies were not masterpieces, but they were precise. I carefully spread the frosting and even more carefully sprinkled sugar on top. It went downhill from there. When faced with a pile of cookies to frost, artistry tends to fall by the wayside. We started taking creative liberties: designing frosting sweaters for the donkeys, making angels without faces, and attempting to write messages with drippy icing.
Food styling is part of my day job. I’ve used tweezers to select seven perfect specimens from a bowl of sprinkles. I’ve practiced swirling whipped cream on wax paper until my hand hurt. I know from experience that “perfect” is a lot of work. This time of year, the hunt for “perfect” gets a lot of people in trouble. The perfect gift. The perfect appetizer. The perfect Christmas tree. The perfect family photo. I know I’m not the first to say it, but what if we pursued “real” instead of “perfect”? I want more experiences like the one I had with my friend and her mom. I want to make homely cookies and share them without apology. Not because they’re perfect, but because they’re real.