Christmas isn’t quite the same without Aunt Ellia or her butter cookies--they were a family tradition. For years, she had baked her cookies as gifts to certain family members and luckily, my family has been one of them.
The cookies she baked were more precious than gold. We tried not to eat too many at once because we wanted them to last as long as possible. Through the years, I have baked Aunt Ellia’s butter cookie recipe, but her cookies always tasted better. The ingredients are the same, but I can never get them to taste exactly like hers. I miss her special butter cookies but not as much as I miss her.
I first met Aunt Ellia when I was dating her nephew, my husband, Tom. He brought me over to meet Aunt Ellia and Uncle Mario around Christmas time. I will never forget how she made me feel immediately welcomed in her home. Everyone was exchanging Christmas presents and to my surprise, she handed me a gift from under her tree. She made me feel I was part of the family that day. Her gesture meant so much to me.
I never forgot her warmth and to this day, I always try to have a present for everyone who visits with me during the holidays. When Tom and I were engaged, I remember going to Aunt Ellia’s for dinner a few days later to celebrate. She was someone special my husband wanted to share the good news with. Uncle Mario took a picture of us together, and it is probably the only one I have of our engagement.
For my wedding, I borrowed my Aunt Olga’s wedding dress. My Aunt Olga and Uncle Dom had just celebrated their 25th anniversary at the time. The dress was all satin and lace, extremely delicate but a little large on me. I asked Aunt Ellia if she could alter it. I remember going to her house and standing in that dress on a chair as she pinned me here and there. Without her expertise with sewing adjustments, I would not have been able to wear my Aunt Olga’s dress, and it fit me like a glove.
There were so many special moments in Tom’s and my lifetime with Aunt Ellia and Uncle Mario, always being there with us. We shared special occasions with them as well as Sunday dinners. Those Sunday dinners in their home were a special event, and we were thrilled to be asked to join. We would talk about her Sunday dinner for the entire week afterwards.
Most of all, I think I will miss the times when Aunt Ellia and I walked around the block a few times and just talked about life. I will miss the many recipes from her cookbook she shared with me over a cup of tea. I was always seeking her advice on cooking, and I would often call her to ask her opinion on some new recipe I was trying out.
Anytime there was an article in the paper or I wrote a story I thought she might like, I would mail it to her. Aunt Ellia would call me and tell me she enjoyed reading what I had sent. She was one of my biggest fans. She was proud of me, as she was of everyone else in her family.
Now, there are no more phone calls ending with her saying, “I love you,” no more five-course Sunday dinners--just when you thought you were done she would bring out more food, no more butter cookies, and most of all, no more Aunt Ellia. Only memories remain; wonderful, comforting memories of a special “Mom” to all of us, who would be proud that her butter cookies, her recipes, and her legacy lives on, and will be passed down generation to generation.
I honor Aunt Ellia the only way I know how, by baking her traditional butter cookies and having my children and grandchildren enjoy them this Christmas and every Christmas hereafter, remembering her lovingly with every bite of cookie.
Aunt Ellia's Butter Cookies
- 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
- 3 3/4 cups flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons water
1. Preheat oven to 375-to-400 degrees
2. Cream butter and sugar, add egg yolks, vanilla, flour and salt. Mix well to form a dough.
3. Fill a cookie press and press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheets. Brush cookie tops with egg whites and water, slightly beaten. Decorate with sprinkles.
4. Bake in hot oven until golden, about 5 or 6 minutes.
5. ENJOY–Good Luck! (Aunt Ellia’s ending comment on her recipe)
Mariann Raftery, creator of Somebody's Mom blog, cooks up comfort food recipes for families here at home, as well as sending homemade cookie care packages to our American soldiers overseas. Somebody's Mom Cooking videos at http://www.youtube.com, search "Thesomebodysmom."