Cookies are a holiday sand mandala

January 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

During the holiday season I make a variety of cookies. I enjoy making beautiful desserts throughout the year so it may be no surprise that I make something special for the season. They can’t just look beautiful, they must also taste good. They aren’t just sweet, the balance of flavors and textures are important among the ingredients that include nuts, cream cheese, vanilla, and coconut. Because I tend to use chocolate all year round for special desserts, I tend not to make any cookies with chocolate during this time of year.

The ritual of preparations takes weeks. It seems I’m making dough, testing  and tweaking recipes for weeks before anyone else gets to taste them.  Then it is a few weeks of making them for lunches, dinners, ad parties when I’ll meet loved ones that will be recipients of tins of cookies. Some would think it isn’t worth the effort…but they probably haven’t tasted them. When so many things are mass produced and often synthetic, I like to make all natural cookies with my own hands and my own time.

As a kid I remember going to the Field Museum in Chicago and watching Tibetan Monks make a sand mandala. There is something about making something so beautiful that will only last a few days that reminds me of the Tibetan Monks. They spent days making the elaborately made sand mandala. They painstakingly use several colors of sand in intricate patterns usually with patterns of squares within circles. Each symbol had meaning and significance. To them it wasn’t an artistic pursuit, it is religious just as other cultures had been making them for thousands of years. The mandalas are never meant to be permanent, the monks pick up all of the sand and leave it in a river or in the case of the Field Museum mandala, Lake Michigan. The temporary nature of the mandala is meant to be a reminder of compassion for others because of our finite time in this state. Dispersing the sand in a body of water is symbolic of the dispersal of the message.

My intent isn’t so grand; they aren’t likely to make anyone more compassionate. I just like to share something beautiful and delicious with my loved ones. I don’t like the recipients of my cookies to know how much effort or long they take to create; that isn’t important. I don’t like taking compliments for them. At times they seem obligatory, I say just enjoying them is the greatest compliment. They are a reminder that beauty is rare and that it is fleeting.

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