Around this time in years past, I would have had already cleared out the long table in the lobby by the entrance to our room. The surface would be strewn with beautiful paper and ribbons on one side, products still to be wrapped on the other. There would also be paper bags and boxes on the floor, all filled with wrapped gifts ready to be delivered very early the next day. Christmas carols would be playing from the sound system in the living room downstairs and I would blissfully be in the eye of this happy mess, my heart filled to bursting.
This is my absolute favorite time of the year. I would be wrapping and writing notes on Christmas cards all day long. And in between I would be eating Tita Carmel’s fruitcake cookies or Lydia Lerma’s chickengalantina.
It is a bit different this year. Yes, I have ordered and bought the bulk of gifts to give to everyone on my list but whereas by this time I should be in the thick of it all already, I am but starting. Last night I wrapped the first five gifts lovingly, using pretty paper and even prettier ribbons. As I write this I can hear the helpers struggling to put up the Christmas tree. I have decided to keep it simple this year — there will just be one tree (we had three before, in different colors, standing beside each other like happy, well-dressed soldiers). This year, there will be just one — lime green in color — and Juliana and I will decorate it with pink roses. I hope I find strings of pearls that I can wrap around here and there.
I have not gotten around to ordering either the fruitcake cookies and chicken galantina that have been my constant companions in the past because I have taken an almost insane liking to chocolate chip cookies, not the homemade ones but the store-bought variety that abound in the grocery shelves. It goes by the brand Chips Delight (by Galinco) and although I am normally wont to go for the freshly baked variety, there is a charm to this one that I cannot resist. I went on a marathon viewing of The Tudors last week and I am to this cookie what Henry VIII is to Ann Boleyn when he was courting her. I. Am. In. Love.
There are many ways to enjoy it. They have a mini version, little bites of chocolate chip cookies that I love to scatter atop a big mound of vanilla or mantecado ice cream (any pale, white ice cream actually). But wait. The joy does not end there. Heaven is when you very carefully and stingily get a small pinch of rock salt and sprinkle it on the concoction. Then you dig in, and at that very moment, as you taste how the salt chases the sweet and vice versa, how the crumbly texture sits on top of the cool smoothness of the cream, life is just good and happy. Sometimes I also just go the traditional cookies-and-milk way. It is my go-to dessert of late, two my favorite variants (and there are several others) are the Chips Delight Striped Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Mini Chips Delight Butter Oatmeal Choco Chip Cookies. The latter I love warming in the microwave or the oven toaster for a minute or so. Here’s the thing, warming it in the microwave will make it retain its crisp while doing the same in the oven will soften it a bit and make it a tad chewy. Either way, it is good. Your choice.
You know what else is good? A brand called Smiley’s. I love Tim Tam, I’ve loved it since I was a teenager and a suitor gave it to me as a present hiding under lovely flowers. Sadly, it is not always available here and when friends go to Australia I ask them to buy some for me. All that said, I need not fret anymore because Smiley’s Premium has found its way to me. It tastes very much like the Tim Tam of my youth and I am so happy it is accessible anytime I need and want it. Try it, you’ll never forget how good it tastes.
Anyway, especially now that the holidays are coming, I will buy lots and lots of these Chips Delight cookies and place them in a big cookie jar. Joy is when the lid is lifted and a hand dips into it for a cookie, or two, even three, and his/her day is all the brighter and happier for it.
For all the pedigree of a homemade and freshly baked cookie, the appeal of its ready-to-eat-anytime counterpart lies in the fact that — and this is especially true for Chips Delight which is a relatively new discovery of mine — not only is it warmly delicious, the enjoyment of it is instantaneous. How much simpler can it get? You go to the nearest grocery, get several shiny packs of it that you can tear open and the feeling is very much like Christmas for a child really, that spontaneous and absolutely guiltless freedom of taking apart something carefully packaged to reveal that which makes your joy, even for just that one moment, very complete.
To the makers of Chips and Delight and Smiley’s, please make shortbread cookies next? And after that, shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate…
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