Sunday, September 30, 2012

Smiles on Your Wedding Day

I remember my first Eat ‘n Park Smiley Cookie.  I was about six-years-old and my family—mom, dad, and younger sister---had just moved from Pittsburgh thirty minutes north to Cranberry Township. Farm country, we considered it back then.  After a day spent lifting and unpacking boxes, Mom announced that if we wanted to eat, we’d have to go out.  We settled on an Eat ‘n Park, one of the five options in our new town.  At the end of our meal, while my parents sipped the final third of their decaf coffees, the waitress appeared with our bill and two wax paper envelops.

“Cookies for your two little girls,” she said, setting them side by side on the table.

“Oh,” said Dad, furrowing his brows. “But we didn't order any cookies.”

“They’re free for children under six,” she replied.

My sister and I grinned at each other and slid our cookies out of their wrappings.  They were round cookies with a white glaze and piped with a smiley face.  Mine was orange; Jackie’s pink.
“It’s huge,” I said, comparing it to my hand.  “I don’t think I’ll eat it all.”

I took one bite, then another.  The sugar cookie was firm, but the icing made it softer.  It tasted buttery, like my grandmother’s cut-outs.  My sister and I chewed on the cookies even as we left the restaurant. By the time we reached home, they were gone.

My hands have long since outgrown Smiley’s circumference and I’m confident that today I’d be able to eat two cookies instead of one.  But since high school, Smiley Cookies have been absent from my dessert repertoire.  I went to college in a town without an Eat ‘n Park and after graduation I moved to Greece, where although there were no Smiley Cookies, I did run into a Smiley Baklava once.  Really.  Next came Grad School and before I knew it I was an adult, too old for Smiley Cookies.  Or so I thought.
This summer when I began writing The Pittsburgh Cookie Table, I focused on favorite regional cookie recipes. When someone suggested that I write about the Smiley Cookies as a possible cookie candidate, I was ashamed that I hadn’t thought of it myself.  With its history and ties to Pittsburgh, of course Smiley Cookies should be part of the Pittsburgh wedding tradition.  

Joining Eat ‘n Park restaurants in 1986, Smiley has been a Pittsburgh kids’ treat for over 25 years.  My generation remembers them as fixtures at birthdays, church socials, and school holiday parties.  I think most Pittsburghers have a fond memory or two of the colorful smiles.  If you’d like to learn more about Smiley,  the Eat ‘n Park Hospitality group created a nice YouTube video about the cookie’s history here.

It’s easy to add Smiley Cookies to your cookie table tradition.  At Smiley’s website, brides can order dozens of Smiley Cookies in just a few steps.  With a choice of twelve colors for both the smiley face and the base, the cookies can be customized to virtually any wedding color combination.  The order ships to any address in the U.S. and you can request the date of their arrival.  My parents were lucky enough to receive a box of the cookies in the mail last week.  Below are some pictures.

Just beautiful and yummy.  My mother said they arrived at her door in a plastic air tight box and not a single cookie had broken.  Good to know. 

Over time, things change.  Cranberry Township is no longer countryside and my left hand now sports an engagement ring.  But the cheer Smiley Cookies bring has stayed the same and I think they’d make an excellent addition to any Pittsburgh cookie table.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Where I've been

Part of me can’t believe it.  Has more than a month passed since my last post?  Looking at the date of my last cookie recipe, June 27, I see that numbers don’t lie.   Well then.  It’s time for someone to get back on a writing schedule.

First it was the bridal shower my mother and sister threw for me in the U.S. Wedding etiquette books warn brides not to become involved with the shower, to prevent speculation that she’s campaigning for gifts.  But as I say here, I wanted to make something for the ladies in my life who gave up a summer Saturday to shower me with gifts and wish me well as the future Mrs. P. 

I made them these:

  Vanilla Lime cupcakes with Lime frosting 

Apart from a report that one cupcake melted in a hot car on its way home, I think they served as rather nice parting gifts.

Next was my big move to Greece.  I must have packed and repacked my suitcases twenty times, all to avoid overweight charges… they were overweight in the end.  And then the dress.  My sister, a costumer, sewed a special bag for my wedding dress’ ride across the Atlantic.  Not a single wrinkle when I arrived.
To shorten a long tale, in four weeks I rejoined my Spyros, landed a teaching position (yes, I found a job.  In Greece where unemployment has reached 24.4%), and am eating food like this:

And seeing sights like this:

And this: 

I am truly thankful for how everything has turned out but not all the roadblocks are gone.  Things are difficult here.  Every day we learn of another friend who has quit or is quitting Greece for the UK or US.  I’m hoping for the best but feelings are not positive here. 

On a happier note, I did have a publication accepted here in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the creator of the Peanut Blossom Cookie, Freda Smith.  Thank you friends and readers for your encouragement and support.  It means more than you know.

 Now that I’m in Greece cookie recipes will still be my focus, but because of my new location and where I am in my life, this blog will alter some.  You see, Spyros and I are preparing to move into a new house.  And until it is ready my oven access will be limited but the trade-off is just fine; my in-laws-to-be have graciously offered us their home along with copious amounts of free pasta and wine. Nonetheless, Greece has many foodie finds and I will post about them all.  I’m looking forward to the new direction this blog is taking and hope you’ll join me as I rediscover Greece.