Cookies from Beyond the Grave

The one piece of holiday cooking I did yesterday was to make meringues, a type of cookie that is basically fluffed eggwhite and sugar – crisp, melt-in-the-mouth holiday froth.

The act was as sentimental as it was gluttonous. The recipe I have is from my godmother, who died 11 years ago; indeed, she is the only person I have ever known who made this type of cookie. The only time she did was around Christmas. Partly, no doubt, because for being 5-ingredient treats they are a pain in the ass to make, but partly also for the practicality of needing air that is less than 80% humidity to dry them (thus ruling out spring, summer, and most of fall where I grew up) and partly because it’s nice to hold in reserve certain food that become part of the fabric of the holidays. I decided to make them because I wasn’t getting much proper Christmas otherwise: I celebrated 2 weeks ago with my family, my husband was working, and we didn’t even get a tree this year.

So I made meringues. I held for a moment an intense sadness that I could not call her up to ask what the “dough” is supposed to look like at each stage, and then I made my best guess.

The cookies, when I tried them last night (they have to cure for 10-12 hours rather than actually bake) came out perfectly. They tasted like Christmas…and they tasted like her. For that first bite I could close my eyes and pretend it was 12 years ago, and she was wearing red velvet on the couch 5 feet away. Then I opened my eyes. It’s not 12 years ago, but the meringues still taste like Christmas. Next year, I’ll make them again.

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