New Book Insists the Cookie Table Is More Than Just Dessert
“The Belt Cookie Table Cookbook” is a collection of recipes and memories.
Tawse unearthed her material doing research at the eighth annual Cookie Table and Cocktails Gala in Youngstown. The fundraiser for Mahoning Valley Historical Society is a reception-like simulation, with locals showing off their family’s proudest concoctions.
That year, they had about 8,000 cookies. Overwhelmed by her options, Tawse consulted the experts — Youngstown bakers and cookie-enthusiasts — to navigate her way through the never-ending buffet of treats.
“That just led to this wonderful chain of human connection,” she says.
One baker would lead her to a cousin, who would connect her with a friend, and so on. Each new recipe came with a story. Relatives, memories and history were preserved on the notecards, family cookbooks and Microsoft Word documents she received.
The stories of 18th-century immigrants included recipes for such classics such as pizzelles, buckeyes and clothespins, while less traditional recipes came from more modern tales.
One of the modernized cookies came to Tawse after receiving Anna Pitinii Hoods’ mother’s decadent baklava recipe. Hood linked the Greek treat to her son’s wedding to his Brazilian wife, and recalled the two families coming together to bake baklava and roll brigadieros — a Brazilian fudge ball that is a must-have at birthday parties.
“That’s exactly what should be happening at a wedding,” Tawse says, explaining why she added the brigadieros. “That, to me, is the beauty of [the tradition].”
This blending of family and culture is baked into the spirit of the cookie table tradition: splitting the workload, bringing some home, and swapping recipes.
“Cookies are connectors,” says Tawse. “I hope people can get that out of this even at a time when we might be struggling at connecting on a scale that we would like.”
In her introduction, Tawse recounts her own experience, hunkered down at home due to pandemic lockdowns, testing these transcending cookies. Baking with her family and brightening the spirits of her neighbors who were gifted with the treats are moments the author will be forever grateful for.
“Those are the kinds of connections and memories that, if I didn’t make a dime off the cookbook, I’d be totally fine because it was such a beautiful and rewarding experience,” she says.