(You can catch Mystery Man Part 1 here).
Mystery Man and I started dancing together, and we danced a lot. Three to five evenings a week I would venture out of my tiny apartment around nine p.m. and head out to a local bar, restaurant or club to the designated ‘Swing Night’, usually returning well after one a.m. with my clothes damp from sweat and that feeling of calm after a good workout.
In between dances we would sit at a table, catch up on the day’s happenings and enjoy a drink. Gin and Tonic for him, Corona with a lime for me. The conversations were all over the place. Cooking, movies, our families, and dance steps were weekly topics. I was not particularly attracted to Mystery Man and neither him to me. We were friends, dance partners, nothing more.
Valentine’s Day, February 2000. I was at my retail job on the closing shift and there was no swing dancing to be had that evening. That was fine with me, I was going home to crash since I had the tendency to burn the candle at both ends. I had no Valentine to speak of and had enough of the dating thing for a while. Besides, Valentine’s Day had never really been my thing, even as a kid I thought it was a pretty silly holiday.
The store was slow and I had sent most of the staff home. Shopping for educational toys on this holiday was not my clientele’s top priority. I was counting down to the end of my shift by fiddling with the cash register area. Straightening this, organizing that. The equivalent of cleaning your closet on a rainy day.
I felt a presence of someone entering the store and approaching. I looked up with my ‘can I help you’ look on my face and stared directly into Mystery Man’s eyes. On the counter sat a bouquet of sugar cookies. Wrapped in cellophane with sticks baked in, they were iced to resemble various flowers. Alongside the cookies was a small collection of heavy full-fat milk in three flavors. My favorite kind. He handed me a card, said “Happy Valentine’s Day”, and promptly left.
Shocked and a little flushed, I opened that card. It was a ‘friend’ card. No mention of love, not a hint of romance. Just a straight up, platonic, card. The redness in my face faded, and I tore into those cookies and milk to keep me energized through our closing routine, all the while trying earnestly to curb a little flutter in my stomach.
Since that day, every year on the fourteenth of February, Mystery Man visits that specialty cookie shop and brings me full fat, heavy milk. To be honest, the cookies have gone downhill since that first gift. Or maybe it is just the sweet memories that make me believe they were tasty. But in any case, I still eat them, then soon after that I get a hankering for my Aunt Helen’s sugar cookies.
I hope you make these for someone special, platonic or not.
Aunt Helen’s Sugar Cookies (pictured with Decorator’s Icing, recipe coming soon…)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 cup (two sticks) butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups sifted flour, plus more for rolling and cutting.
- Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar and butter. (about 1-2 minutes)
- Add the eggs, one at a time and combine on medium speed for about twenty seconds in between additions.
- Add in the sour cream and vanilla, mixing until uniform on medium speed. Stop and scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula two times.
- In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and soda and add to the mixture to the mixer (on low speed) about 1 cup at a time. After all flour is added, mix until no streaks of flour.
- Using about a baseball-worth of dough at a time, dust your work surface, dough ball, and rolling pin with flour. Roll out to about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and transfer to lined baking sheet (parchment paper or Silpat).
- Cookies will spread a little, so don’t crowd them on the sheet pan too close together.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool for five minutes before transferring to wire rack.
- Repeat with remaining dough.
- Dough can be refrigerated for up to two days prior to use. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before rolling and cutting shapes.
- The cookies pictured were decorated by: Put icing in a Zip-Lock bag and squeeze out all the air before sealing. Snip off one corner of the bag and pipe icing onto cookies as desired. (If the icing will not stick to the cookie, use a spritz bottle of water and lightly wet the surface of the cookie prior to icing.) Press cookies – icing side down – into bowls of colored sugar, sprinkles, or any other decorative items you desire.