Cookies have always been a big deal to me. In southern non-Native communities, a treat like cookies is taken for granted as being a simple pleasure that anyone could enjoy at any time.
To us in the north, cookies were considered a very special treat that were hard to come by. Cookies were available but they were expensive. Most of the time my family was more concerned with just getting enough of the main staples to eat every day. Cookies were a big bonus. Mom knew how to make her own cookies but she rarely had the time to bake as she had to care for a family of 11. When she did bake a batch of cookies, her hard work would disappear in a matter of minutes as nine children greedily gobbled up the goodies.
Whenever mom could spare the money during her grocery shopping, she brought home a box of cookies. In our large family, that box of cookies never lasted long enough to be placed on the shelf for later use. We ate them up as soon as the box was opened. Early on none of us ever were too choosy about our cookies. We enjoyed chocolate, oatmeal, raisin, creamy centers or puff-balls.
I remember craving any kind of cookie. Mom comes from an extended family of people that she grew up with in the remote wilderness. We often visited with her aunts and uncles in the community. One special great-aunt we looked forward to visiting was an Elder we knew by her Cree name as Papi. She was a fun lady who enjoyed having a good laugh during a visit. We were always thrilled to visit Papi as we knew that she had an ongoing cache of cookies and candies.
She had grown up very poor on the land and these sweets had always been very precious to her. So even in modern times she still hoarded any sweets with great interest. Actually she did this in part so that there was plenty when any of the children came to visit her. We found it a bit strange to dip into a big plastic bag of mixed sweets like Oreo cookies, sticky hard candy, chocolates, jub-jubes, lollypops and licorice. At times all of these sweets more or less seemed to kind of jell together into one big glob of sugar. However, we didn’t really care about the presentation, what we were after was the sugar. Papi was as sweet as her treats and we had lots of good laughs as she told us stories from her family life on the land.
Whenever we did have the opportunity to have cookies in our household it was usually one variety. They were the English biscuits. They were bland hard cookies with such name brands as Village cookies or Pilot cookies. We could buy large boxes of these treats and they actually lasted for some time in our house. These cookies were also great to take with us when we went out on to the land. These hard cookies were easy to pack, never took up much space and came in large quantities.
We normally never ate our hard biscuits right away. We ate these cookies with a cup of hot tea. We sat around the dinner table dipping our biscuits into the tea until they became soaked and then we ate them right away. I remember spending cold evenings huddled in our prospector tent while on a camping trip with our family. We sat around the camp stove with cups of hot tea in hand and a box of biscuits to share. It was also a pleasure to have some quick hot food like a tea-soaked biscuit while sitting in the middle of nowhere in a blind during the spring goose hunt. Life was much better out on the land in the cold when I had a thermos of tea and a small bag of Village cookies to give me a boost.
In recent years, I have discovered a variety of cookies. My friend Emily introduced me to Girl Guide cookies. As a long-time guider she still ends up with lots of these wonderful cookies. There are regular vanilla and chocolate flavours and also a chocolate covered mint cookie. Often, Emily will also bake her own oatmeal cookies and it is a real treat for me to have freshly made cookies with a cup of hot tea at the kitchen table.
I was happily surprised when I discovered other types of cookies such as the Italian biscotti. My friend Alana introduced me to these European treats. They are crispy baked cookies that are made with anise seeds, an ingredient that tastes like licorice and go perfect with a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
I have been lucky enough to sample cookies, pastries and sweet treats in many other countries. In countries such as Spain, France, Germany and Italy, they enjoy all kinds of fancy sweet treats with their coffee or tea. They have an almost endless variety of cookies, pastries and sweets to go with a fresh cup of coffee, cappuccino, espresso or tea.
Strangely enough these days I find myself craving those bland old Village and Pilot cookies. I guess it has to do with my memories of being out on the land. I have moved on too. These days I am forever dealing with a new kind of pesky cookie. Those cookies that infest my computer. There is nothing sweet about them.