I intended to post this for Father’s Day. I’m a little late, but it’s never a bad time to talk about dad, especially when he is as great as mine.
My father’s not much of a baker (an excellent eater though.) The one time my mother went out of town without us, we built a 7-tiered cake out of a single frozen, pound cake. We stuffed it with cool whip and every kind of fruit imaginable. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, until it fell over. But aside from developing my healthy fear of layer cakes, my father is actually responsible for teaching me the essential skills required in my new-found love of iced sugar cookies – doodling and coloring in the lines.
I have never considered myself much of an “artist,” although come to think of it I spent much of my childhood filling in coloring books and doodle arts. I even won a coloring contest once, although I also once drew a horse that no one knew was a horse… ah the tortured life of an “ar-teest.“
Anyhow I digress, back to the topic at hand, my dad. My dad believes I passed him up in age years ago. A true child at heart, we have determined he likely stopped maturing somewhere around 12 or 13. We regularly colored together and he taught me the importance of buying “good” coloring books. Check them people. This is a serious thing. Some of them have such big lines and really no detail at all.
We would look for the perfect pages in each book, identifying which had the most detail, while still leaving space for stripes and polka dots, and then we would color. Like any good dad, he taught me about outlining and staying inside the lines and while this may seem restrictive to some “free-thinkers” out there, once in the lines the options were truly endless – color in the lines, think outside the box.
Now before I start getting letters from the coalition of parents for coloring outside the lines, I should mention the next skill. Doodling. When we ate dinner out, which we did often, my dad would take the kids menu they gave me and draw a random squiggle. It would them be my job to turn that squiggle into something else, a bird, a house, an elephant being lifted up to the sky by a balloon over a detailed cityscape, literally anything. We still do this today. If a restaurant has one of those fancy paper tablecloths, you better believe we will have drawn all over it before dinner even arrives.
But how does this apply to cookies you might ask? Well the coloring part should be clear enough, but the doodling, let me explain. Cookie cutters all have intentions – one is a teapot-shape another is a carrot, but who can really have a million cookie cutters for every idea and whim? So they need to be repurposed and really why can’t a trophy cup be a bear with a margarita on it’s head?
It’s not always easy to see the multi-purpose of a cookie cutter, once the eye has seen something one way, it’s hard to convince the brain it simply isn’t so. But aside from the basic shape, cookie cutters are generally vague; requiring you to think of all the ways you could bring it to life. I take a lesson from dad on this one and trace my cookie cutters onto a plain sheet of paper, essentially creating my own mini coloring book or a doodle that needs to become something else.
With the freedom to see the shape on paper I can turn it upside down, twist it sideways or simply stare at the endless possibilities inside the lines. This is a great way to inspire new ideas as well as plan out cookies in the making. I have a notebook filled with drawings of cookies and colored in with new designs.
So the moral of this story, well there are a few: dad’s teach you more life skills than you ever realize, you’re never to old to doodle, layer cakes are not actually that scary and don’t judge a cutter by it’s cookie.
Happy Father’s Day Day!