A Cookie Tradition
A few months after I moved to Denmark, I was invited to my husband’s parents’ house for a Christmas gathering. I’d only met his parents briefly before, and at that point I didn’t know whether their icy demeanor was Danish minimalism at its best or a sign that they just didn’t like me.
As we stood ready to ring the doorbell, I felt nervous. My husband held my hand reassuringly, and when the door opened we saw that this would be more than a quaint gathering. Most of my husband’s closest relatives were there as well, partially to celebrate the holiday season, but mostly to meet me, the newest family member. (Gulp.)
After the greetings by the door, my in-laws went into the kitchen, and the rest of us moved into the living room and sat ourselves snuggly on the couches. Curious glimpses and awkward smiles were shot back and forth. Then with a wide smile, my mother in-law re-emerged carrying a large tray with coffee cups and coffee pot made of the most beautiful royal porcelain. My father in law followed behind with a platter layered with an array of Christmas cookies.
The coffee and cookies helped break the ice, and conversations began to flow. It turns out everyone, except us, had contributed to the cookie assortment. Each person has their preferred type of cookie, and without them, the holidays just don’t seem right. Most did like my mother in-law: make a big batch of cookies in the beginning of December to last the entire month.
I discovered that my favorite Danish cookie was the brunkage, or ginger crisp. It’s a wafer-thin cookie flavored with warm spices like cinnamon, allspice and cloves, and also includes candied orange peel. My mother in-law noticed I ate so many of her crisps that she sent me home with a copy of her own brunkage recipe later that day. My husband told me afterwards, that her doing so was like a stamp of approval; I was now officially a member of the family.
The following Christmas, we adopted a tradition for making the cookies each December in our home, and now that we no longer live in Denmark, it’s a treat we cherish even more.