I have pushed back my sleeves and started my annual Christmas cookie baking.
The first thing I do is gather up all my recipes. I’d like to say I have them neatly sorted and stored, but I actually keep everything randomly together in one recipe box.
Most are worn and tattered from use. A few are spotted with the remnant of some ingredient that splashed on and never completely wiped off.
But what I noticed this year was all the gluten-free recipes I have from about 20 years ago when my daughter was first diagnosed with celiac disease. Many are handwritten, thankfully by others with penmanship much neater than mine.
Two decades ago, gluten-free recipes were traded directly from one person to another. A mom who had come up with a recipe for cut-out cookies that actually didn’t crumble generously wrote it out for me on a index card. I still use that recipe today.
Another woman, a stranger who I never met, penned about dozen recipes after someone at a support group meeting mentioned to her that I had a young daughter and needed some help. She somehow got my address, put the recipes in an envelope and mailed them to me without my ever asking.
A close look at recipes from those years shows how much work went into gluten-free baking. Pre-made flour mixes were nearly non-existent so every recipe ticked off combinations of three or four flours. Eggs were used in abundance to make up for the absence of gluten. We knew little about the use of whole grains and their nutritional value, so potato starch, rice flour and tapioca flour were the mainstays of most everything we made.
And we made everything. There were few gluten-free products even on health food store shelves, never mind the supermarket. I just wrote about gluten-free cookie mixes and packaged cookies for Gluten-Free Living. And I still had a sense of wonder that they exist and that you can pick them up on your regular shopping trip.
But over the holidays I am back in my kitchen, as are 84 percent of home cooks recently asked in an All-recipes survey if they bake Christmas cookies.
My mother and grandmother always baked a wide and wondrous assortment of cookies when I was growing up. I continue the tradition, though everything I make now is gluten free. My daughter dons her own apron and helps me every year, which is one of the best parts of holiday baking.
Today, you don’t have to rely on a new gluten-free friend or a complete stranger who pulls out a pen and paper to share a treasured recipe with you. You can get so many gluten-free cookies recipes online. Inventive and inspired gluten-free bloggers have come up with wonderful recipes that are yours with the click of mouse. You’ll also find collections of recipes submitted by bakers all around the country. You can even read these recipes on a computer or iPad right in your kitchen.
But whether it’s paper recipe gone soft from years of use or a pristine image on a screen, it all comes back to the spirit of sharing among those who follow the gluten-free diet.
This generosity is a true holiday gift.
Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy gluten-free holiday and new year.