Christmas Cookie Bribery

Christmas Cookie Bribery

Christmas Cookie Bribery

Christmas Cookie Bribery

Ah Christmas – can’t you just smell it?
Christmas trees, baubles, colored lights, Christmas cookies, glass of something nearby, tv on, couch, overdraft.

It’s the cookies that do it for me. Not so much eating them, although that IS pretty special.
It’s the giving of them, the gesture, the kindness, the “hi, how you doin?”

In North America everyone bakes at Christmas, it’s just the way it is, it’s a tradition.
People take cookies to work. There’s always a box around to nibble on before going home to nibble on something else.
Go into the bank or a store and there’s a plate of cookies to dip into to give you something to chew on while waiting in line.
I love it – so festive, so friendly, so utterly yummy.

Being married to a Canadian for 20 years (the lucky guy) and spending a big chunk of that time living in Canada, cookies are one thing about Christmas that I remember.
I’ll leave -25° and snowdrifts deep enough to bury your car in and take cookies every time.

I should stop here though, just to say that even though I am a qualified chef I am not naturally gifted in the pastry department.
I know, I know, how hard can cookies be right?
Well, let’s just say I’d rather peel potatoes than bake cookies – that’s something other people do well and I do not. I know my strengths.
I will happily spend all day reducing a sauce until it’s just right or butchering some meat to make a beautiful dish but cookies…..nah…not my prowess.
People have been known to physically shudder at the sheer mention of my baking.
To say that I make a huge effort to produce them is an understatement.

Christmas Cookie Bribery

So, when we moved to France 5 years ago and settled in our tiny village here in the Pyrenees we thought it only right to drop around a few cookies at Christmas to say hi and Merry Christmas to our neighbors.

To be honest, as we are fairly rural, we don’t have many neighbors and as we’d only just moved in we didn’t know many people so we came up with a list of unsuspecting candidates whom had helped us with our relocation and were therefore deserving of my rough offerings.

First on the list - Our immediate neighbours, who are farmers, very traditional and Spanish Basque in origin.
We didn’t understand a word they said as they spoke to us in Occitan “patois”.
This is an old dialogue local to the Pyrenees and has such a wicked accent that it is hard even to know when to smile, nod or shrug your shoulders in the true French fashion.
I’m sure that they thought/think we don’t have a clue, which we don’t….we just smile a lot!

Then there’s the village mayor.
Anyone who has lived in France knows that to get anything done requires that you have a good relationship with the local mayor.
Failure to do so can result in any request you make being delayed for a long, long time.
So it’s vital that you keep the mayor, and his secretary sweet.
They were great to us when we got here – think it has something to do with husband’s Canadian accent and the fact that the mayor is a female!

And then there’s the local bike shop that we use a lot for our business, Chez Passet, a cycling B&B.
We also had a bunch of bike problems and they were super kind to us so they got added to the hit list.

Lastly, there’s the postman.
Gotta keep the postie sweet, always, especially when you own half of Amazon, Wiggle and EBay!

Christmas Cookie Bribery

We spent a day in the kitchen making sugar cookies with sprinkles and baking shortbread cut into festive shapes.
There may have been a glass of something festive involved as well, just to make things a little easier.

The cookies were then popped into little festive Christmas bags ready for delivery.
I felt proud that the cookies actually tasted as good as they looked and self-righteous at my attempted Canadian-ness.
Yay, for the love of life in France!

Husband was then dispatched to share the wealth.
His French was better than mine and I was happy in front of the fire with a glass of festiveness and a snug ‘I’ve done my bit” grin. 

When he returned he looked a bit downcast and when I asked how it went he said that they didn’t really get it.

What do you mean, they didn’t get it? I asked.
They didn’t know why we were giving them English cookies. He replied
WTF! English cookies? Was all I could say

Our neighbors, the farmers, gave him a bewildered “what the hell are these” look, but took them anyway because it was the only way to get him to leave.

The village mayor looked at them as if they were foreign…which they were, clearly.
Maybe we should have given her a donation instead!

The local bike shop gave “we’re humoring you because you give us a lot of business and therefore we can’t say they’re awful” looks.

And the Postman, well he changed his route soon after.

Guess tradition doesn’t travel so well across the pond.
Nada, they didn’t get it. 
I was gutted after all that effort, a failure.
My baking prowess denied again.

In my over active brain I could see them all very clearly, holding my little bag of Christmas goodness in the air shaking their heads in true Gallic style while muttering “Wat is zis English sheet?”
I was done, reputation down the dunny, never to climb up the culinary ranks again.
I would be forever an English “cook” who couldn’t cook.

What a over sensitive soul I was to think that it was all about my shortfalls when the only issue was a difference in culture and knowledge.
The English bring out the mince pies as their tradition and the French bring out the chocolates.

With that the chin went out, the shoulders came up and the heels dug right in.
Dammit, they were going to get cookies every year, regardless of their tradition.
It was time to “man up”, get over it and stop being a princess.

So, they DO get cookies every year, like them or not.

We call it Christmas Cookie Bribery but least everyone knows who we are and won’t forget us.
After all, we are being kind in our own way even if they don’t understand why we do it.
We secretly chuckle when delivering now and I bet they cringe when they see us coming through the door in December.

The neighbors still look at us funnily and probably give the cookies to their chickens.

The mayor, seems to like the offer but we don’t really know as we haven’t put in a building permit or anything.

The bike shop think the “Sables Anglais” are “tres bon” but most likely pawn them off to unsuspecting customers saying that the English chick calls herself a chef but doesn’t know how to cook.

The postman keeps changing, I think the word is out.

Cookies anyone? I got lots to spare!

Happy Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Bonne Fetes


Below is my tried and tested bribery recipe Di's Choc 'N Nut Shortbread which can be made ahead, rolled into small balls then frozen.

When you want to cook them just bing out, thaw, flatten and cook as per the recipe below.....Happy Bribing!

Di's Choc 'n Nut Shortbread

210g Plain Flour

½ tsp Baking Powder

¼ tsp Salt

240g Unsalted Butter

1 tsp Vanilla Essence

50g White Sugar

100g Chocolate Chips - your choice - dark or milk

75g Chopped Hazelnuts - toasted and cooled

The Mix: 

Preheat oven to 300ºf or 150ºc

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and put to one side

Using a stand or hand mixer cream butter, sugar and vanilla essence until fluffy

Gradually stir in flour mixture and then nuts and chocolate until fully combined

Roll or scoop small balls of dough (walnut size) on to your cookie or baking sheet - you can use greaseproof paper underneath if you like but I didn't have a problem without.

Leave space of about 10cm between each cookie as they do spread

Flatten cookies with the back of a fork until they are about 1 cm thick

Place in middle of oven and bake for 25 - 27 minutes until light golden brown around edges

Remove from oven, allow to cool for a couple of minutes then move to wire racks to cool

Drink This: 

I have to say that I never drink alcohol when i'm cooking for guests but when baking cookies for Christmas a cool glass of Prosecco does it for me.



I love how you've stuck to your guns and continued the tradition. I bet if you stopped they'd miss them! My in-laws are always very bemused by my Christmas bakings, mine and the kids...they politely nibble at them and say encouraging things like "euh, c'est speciale"!! So encouraging - not! Then they go to the pâtisserie and pick up a professionally made bûche to actually enjoy. But I persist too. Thanks for linking this to #AllAboutFrance and merry Christmas to you! I hope you eat tons of delicious cookies.

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