Sweet and That’s It Proves Generosity is Rewarded

posted on: January 2, 2012

Once again the world comes comfortably closer around me, my fingertips reach across the oceans with a click here and there on my computer.  Once again a Christmas present comes from afar, this time from the northern corner of Switzerland and Italy in an email from a reader with a favor to ask:

A couple of days ago I bought your book “The Xmas Cookie Club” as I am fascinated by the US “Cookie Swap” (I’ve come across it while surfing 🙂 Great thing Internet!

I’ve cried reading chapter two (Charlene) as I’ve lost my mother 5 1/2 months ago and my Grandmother 3 weeks ago (not a good year for me) and I was totally feeling the pains of the loss Charlene was going through 🙁 The reason I am writing to you is to ask you whether I am allowed to quote your recipes in my Facebook blogI was thinking to start a “project” of baking the cookies from your book, take a picture and post on my page. Of course I’ll mention that it is from your book. I’ve already mentioned your book when I bought it – please come to FB and have a look and leave a message, if you’d like.

Carola

I responded:

What a fabulous idea!  Could we have a cross-ocean communication/cookie club on each other’s fb pages?  I’ll be thrilled to put something on your page…how ’bout I do that when you do your first baking of the cookies?  And I want you to post your pictures and comments on my facebook page, too.  Is that okay?  This will be sooo fun.  I’m excited about this bridge across the continents and waters!

Then she wrote:

My mother tongue is Italian and I’m trying hard to write my stories feelings in English as colourful as possible…which is sometimes quite difficult. I hope I pick out the right words! I live in the Northern and foggy part of Switzerland (Canton Aargau. The little village I live in counts 2100 souls and is called Lupfig. In this part of Switzerland we speak German) but I was born in the sunny South (Ticino). I had my first job at Zurich Airport and decided to stay in the North as I love the fact that I can use my languages… it’s a daily challenge for me. At home I speak Italian with my husband and children, I speak German outside and have some English speaking friends. From time to time I can refresh my French, too… In 2004 I left my job and gave birth to my daughter and in 2006 to my son. (18 months apart). Then the children’s birthdays came and I became aware how boring and unhealthy the cakes at the stores were… That’s how it all started. 

PS: I really have to tell you this: I cannot stop laughing thinking about it: One o’clock at night… I was reading the cookie recipes with extreme care, trying to figure myself baking (I have to do this for two reasons: 1: English is not my mother tongue and I have to make sure I understand the recipe well and 2: I have to check that we have the required ingredients in Switzerland ) and found out that something was wrong with Tracy’s recipe: the nuts listed under ingredients were invisible in the cooking instructions. I re-read the recipe 3 times, …slow, …slowlier, ..the slowliest. In the end I gave up, finally turned the page and there they were, under the “PS:” Oh did I laugh and laugh and thought: Ann Pearlman, you got me! And the best, the “PS” was on the back of the page…impossible to see at first, second, third sight 🙂 Loved it!!!

I, who am fluent only in English and have not yet accomplished fluency in another language, which is one of my life goals, admire her ability to waltz across four tongues. And so, she baked the cookies from the book and arranged a beautiful diorama. My pecan butter balls were on a plate in front of a Santa who held my book. Next to him was a gingerbread house. The recipe posted in English and Italian.

A week later the chocolate-almond bonbons with Almond Glaze, Chocolate Glaze and Confectioners sugar were laid in a Christmas Tree Configuration.  Again the recipe translated into Italian.

The next week, she was asked by an Italian Blog to write for them. Carola wondered if she should because she is “just a mom at home baking and they are professional cake designers.”   I encouraged her, telling her stories about success that start from home, and that the line between ‘amateur’ and  ‘professional’ is sometimes only in the degree, not the effect. So she stacked graduated baked stars glued together with icing into gorgeous Christmas trees festooned with garlands, candies and tiny Teddy Bears.  She made a battalion of snowmen surrounding the tree.

Here are parts of her first guest blog, translated from the Italian:

I love baking books and this passion I have for them has given me the possibility to cross the borders of the tiny Switzerland and introduced me to new worlds, new smells and new tastes: the U.S. and the United Kingdom (UK). Having two small children at home, I wasn’t able to go there in person but I could bring them to me in my library, in my Facebook page, in my kitchen and in my extra pounds too!

A few weeks ago I wrote the word “Cookies” in a British site that sells books to search for the latest publications on biscuits. Among the many books of recipes listed, “The Christmas Cookie Club (Ann Pearlman’s novel ) stood out with its beautiful and shiny cover.

Intrigued I read the story and immediately was fascinated by it: the book tells the story of the “Christmas Cookie Club” formed by 12 girlfriends who meet every year in December and spend the evening together and share their cookies, according to well defined rules…
A couple of days later, I had it in my hands. I read the first chapters in one breath but then I could not resist and I did go quickly through the pages looking for the cookies recipes.
“Reading first all the recipes will not ruin the surprises of the book,” I said to myself … but then I felt like when as a child, I secretly opened all the windows on the Advent calendar (let he (or she) who has never done it, cast the first cookie).

I had not yet finished reading all the recipes when an idea jumped to my mind: “Why not make a” blog “of these international cookies on my Facebook page of Sweet and that’s it?”

So I sent an email to Ms. Pearlman to ask for permission to publish her recipes along with my photos and comments and within a few hours and she answered “What a fantastic idea,” followed by 10 other unforgettable lines.
I was so happy! One, because she had taken the time to answer me and send me a nice email, and two, because she had given me the permission to copy from her book.
Ms A Pearlman is a wonderful person!
Although I was a “nothing” and she a well known author (Nominated to Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award), I was immediately treated with a lot of kindness.

A beautiful email exchange started and a wonderful collaboration continues today.
I’m so happy for what we achieved in these few days, and I am “honored” that she, too, feels excitement for my project.

And so my Facebook project, the “Christmas Cookie Club” was born. And like every project to be respected, here are my rules:
1: Been able to find and use American ingredients, avoiding substitutions.
Should there be, describe what has been replaced.
2: Follow the recipe in the book literally.
3: have fun.
4: Been able to stop eating the cookies before they are finished

I forgot: the book (in English) “The Christmas Cookie Club” has been translated into German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Croatian and Chinese, but unfortunately not yet in Italian. We hope this happens soon. For you, I will translate and have translated the recipes into Italian, without adding anything new.
Doubts or questions arise, please do not hesitate to write me on my FB page.
I hope that this adventure will sweetly enter with its magnificent fragrances into your home, and I will be happy to publish photos and other recipes as soon as I’ce baked them.And finally: the cookies of the first and second chapter are really simple to prepare, and delicious!A sweet goodbye to all of you.

 To me, I’m the passionate writer who is never quite sure if I write primarily for the benefit of my computer, which may finally learn to write on its own, or whether my words will be read by many.  The Internet, if it’s anything, is the great spreader of democracy.  People “like” me from all over the world. My president sends me tweets.  Recently, it has enabled important political revolutions and changes. And, perhaps, my relationship with Carola from a small town in Switzerland is part of an everyday revolution that is taking place, as the internet gathers people together around shared interests and passions. She’s amazed that I took the time to respond to her, since she is “nothing” and I’m a famous author.  Maybe the internet humanizes all of us, and levels the playing field. Or at least it can. I’m always honored when a reader contacts me.  So I chose to use the internet that way, responding to her and encouraging her.  She still has nine more cookies to bake and share with her family, friends and blog readers, a project which could stretch until the season to once again think about this time of year in earnest. And I will gladly post her Hermit cookies, her fortune cookies with all their good wishes (Can’t wait to see what wishes she devises).

I will continue to learn from her: I did not know that brown sugar is an American invention; we do not have an art here of turning cakes into Cinderella carriages. So I witness her creations stunned.  If my gift to her is giving her permission to use my recipe, she gives me back the gift of making the cookies in an even more elaborate and artistic way than I imagined. Once again, giving proves generosity is rewarded. And cookies, though a conventional feminine task, have become a way to bring contemporary women together internationally, doing something traditional but in a very professional and fun way.

Meanwhile, a bridge has been built across two continents and a vast ocean bringing us all that much closer together. As close as a few clicks and our similar love for baking and creating.

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