The Sound of Music was always my favorite movie when I was growing up. So when I got the opportunity to be an exchange student to Austria my junior year of high school, I eagerly jumped on a plane. I spent the year living in a tiny little village nestled in the Alps.
I found some of their “backwards” ways rather amusing. Although the school I attended was for college-bound youth, I was placed in the “Home Economics” track. Everyone in my all-girl class would presumably grow up to become intelligent, college-educated housewives. Every week we learned about the proper way to set a table or how to measure ingredients. Each school week culminated in the preparation of a meal of several courses, which we would sit down and eat together.
Oh, to relive those days! I had no idea then that I would grow up to become a college-educated housewife. Why didn’t I pay more attention to the recipes? I was more interested in skipping class to go skiing.
One thing I will never forget is the Christmas preparations. My host mother got up about 3 a.m. every single morning for about two weeks so that she could do the Christmas baking. Every day a new variety of cookie was prepared. Long before any of us sleeping children awoke, the cookies would be packed away in tins and placed in an unheated storage room. No one was supposed to touch those cookies until they were served! Every weekend we gathered with family and friends for coffee, pastries, meats, cheeses, fruit and nuts. During the Christmas season, these delicious Cinnamon Stars (Zimtsterne), Linzer Eyes (Linzer Augen) and Vanilla Crescents (Vanilla Kipferl) would be added to the mix.
I had no conscience, though, and couldn’t help myself from sneaking into the storage room as often as possible to steal fresh cookies.
I often cook Austrian food. My family loves it. I don’t remember all the recipes I learned to make in Austrian Home Ec., but the ones that stuck with me are true gems. Although I’ve never tried a daily 3 a.m. baking marathon, I still enjoy incorporating Austrian cookies into my holiday season. This year we made the Vanilla Crescents. Our youngest son enjoyed working the sifter to give them all a good coating of powdered sugar.
One bite takes me right back! Where’s the coffee?