Wedding Cookies

Italian Wedding Cookies, or simply just Wedding Cookies because they were so common as a kid, are tiny anise flavored sugar-bread balls with icing. They were on every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and wedding spread in my family. They're simple and polite. They also play well to my personal tastes - I am partial to lemon flavored desserts, a symptom of having half Mediterranean blood and being overexposed to Italian, Greek, and Middle-Eastern food as a child. They might be called Wedding Cookies because cookie tables are such a huge thing in Western Pennsylvania + Ohio. In most weddings back home, the cookie table takes the place of the wedding cake. It sounds a little poor, but it is truly spectacular. Can't believe anybody would ever have a cake instead of a cookie table. I tried to write a piece about cookie tables a while back that I couldn't get anybody to bite on, so I'll include that after the recipe. I think it explains cookie tables pretty easily.

Normally the icing isn't colored for weddings, but my grandma would do that sort of thing for Christmas. It's currently July. I did it anyways, though. Food coloring always makes me think of that scene from Hook where they have to imagine food in empty bowls and it ends up just being neon slop. "Hey, we can imagine any food in the entire universe and it will manifest in front of our very eyes, and we chose....colorful slime." Weird. Anyways, I don't bake much. Yours will probably look much better.

Here's the recipe, straight from my grandma's cookbook:

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A cookie table for your wedding 

I love a good wedding. I also love a bad one. To know what's good, well, we must understand what is bad. We must embrace bad. We must study it. Pontificate on it. I've seen wedding menus so bland they looked computer generated. Salad with raspberry vinaigrette and chicken cordon bleu, that sort of thing. One decision that is usually consistent and idiot proof (that means very hard to fuck up) is the wedding cake. Nobody complains about cake. To me, though, the wedding cake seems boring. Isn't it kind of dull? I mean, this one type of cake has to be something everyone in the room can enjoy. It's the laugh track sitcom of desserts, and yet, we accept it as tradition. Wedding cake gets ratings. 

But friend, there's an alternative to wedding cake that you're missing out on: It's called a cookie table. It's a stupendously vast array of cookies, a truly a spectacular display of treats. It's fantastical in presentation and conception. A good cookie table looks like overkill. It should be the mirage of a desert straggler. It should feel royal. You should be afraid to touch one cookie for fear of the whole thing falling apart like the later stages of a Jenga session. Growing up I remember pizelles, Hungarian butterhorns, biscotti, buckeyes, peanut butter blossoms, and so many more being spread out on fancy, yet cheap plastic trays and paper doilies. A true symbol of community, the cookie table has roots in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. It's supposedly an immigrant tradition. The assumption is that when couples were too poor to afford a traditional wedding cake, they had both families contribute an absurd amount of cookies to compensate. Its origins are disputed; the exact kind of thing people from Ohio and Pennsylvania fight over. But, I'm not here to talk about where the cookie table came from. Who cares? It's already arrived. We live in this reality. I'm here to tell you why you should have it at your wedding. 

Can I put my hand on your shoulder and call you that shortened version of your name that nobody calls you? Great. I'm a numbers guy, Al. Right now, we're discussing one type of cake versus dozens of different cookies. The cookie table vastly outdoes the wedding cake in terms of variety and flavor. There's something for everybody, and the best part? There's no rules. Just go have a cookie. You don't have to wait. Not like cake. Cake takes an eternity to arrive and leaves in a few short minutes, but cookies at a wedding are eternal. From the beginning of the reception till the end of the night, the cookies are there for you. They're the last person to leave, and get this, you get to take them home. That's right, a traditional cookie table has takeout containers or bags. You can take them home or eat them in the car to sober up. You'll be a hero. People will say, "God damn, remember that cookie table?" and they'll think of you fondly. 

Coffee? No, I don't, but I can run to the AutoZone next door and they usually let me take some from the pot. You sure? OK. Where was I? Oh yeah, remember how poor you are? Remember how you caved into the pressure of society and planned a wedding? While you insist on getting "married" or whatever, you might as well save some cash, and this dessert won't cost a dime. All you have to do is commission your family to bake. In its purest form, the cookie table is a dessert potluck, and you can bet on your relatives taking it way too damn seriously. You're essentially setting up a competition for your family to engage in while you tie the knot. Remember, everyone who bakes for your wedding is trying to have the best cookie, so there's tons of room for conflict. This is the big day. Some will fold under pressure, but someone, probably your grandma, will be completely on top of her shit. The end result of all this family related competitiveness is one of the most awe-inspiring displays of treats you've ever seen. I've seen cookie tables so beautiful I cried at the mere sight. Maybe it's old age, but there's something squirt-worthy about a family driven cookie table. Hm? That sounded gross? Sorry, we have different expressions up here. 

Now, I know you've got your suspicions, and hell, I would too, but I've seen a whole lot of weddings and the ones with cookie tables are the most successful. I'm not trying to sell you a bunch of bells and whistles; I can promise you that. There's nothing in it for me. I don't make a commission here anymore, and I sure don't have any cookies to sell you. I'm just a guy on an hourly wage that's passionate about his job. I like hospitality. Treat your guests, Al. Ditch the cake, and plan a cookie table.