Slow Days: My Grandmother’s Christmas Cookies

People who are new to Fasting often pose the questions: “Can I really eat ‘anything I want’ on a Slow Day?” and “What should I eat on Slow Days?” To answer those questions, I have decided to add some blog posts to show some of the foods we eat on what the world calls NFDs [non-fast days] but which, in our house, we call ‘Slow Days.’ This feature will appear sporadically. 

Now for the answers. Can you really eat ANYTHING you want on a Slow Day? Not really. If you eat too many calories every Slow Day, you will not lose weight. There are many questions asked on the Fast Diet Forum which attest to that. Once in a while you can splurge, as long as it isn’t everyday. For what to eat on Slow Days, Dr. Mosley recommends a Mediterranean Diet. As for how we eat, an example follows.

My father’s mother was not a good cook. No surprise there. Born in 1884, she was raised to know how to run a household, not to do the cooking and cleaning. In fact, one of the stipulations that my great-grandfather made when my grandfather asked for her hand, was that the wedding would be delayed until such time as the prospective groom had a sufficient income to hire domestic help. Once I asked my father what his family would eat when it was cook’s night off. He replied that his mother would open a can of ravioli and that was dinner. One of my grandmother’s two signature recipes was for the cookies that she made at Christmas. We would drive through the night from Connecticut to Pennsylvania to arrive before Christmas morning, and my grandmother would greet us with the cookies that she had just taken from the oven. They were cut-out cookies, misshapen and often a bit burned, but my father loved them. My sister and I never understood that when we were children, but now I get it. My mother, a great baker of cookies, asked for the recipe and here it is in the original: “Lard, Molasses, Cinnamon, and enough Flour.” My grandmother’s devotion to those cookies tells me that the recipe was from her beloved mother, who no doubt had it from her mother: Agnes Waugh Greason, 1811-1885. My grandmother called the cookies “Ginger Snaps” although there is no ginger in them. My mother called them “Greason Cut-outs” in honor of the Greason Family. Ancestor William Greason/Grayson settled in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania in 1775, and married Agnes Waugh, 1756-1855. Pennsylvania west of the Susquehanna River was the frontier at that time, and supplies were scarce. The lard was from your own pig; molasses was obtained by barter [cane sugar was unavailable]; flour was milled locally; cinnamon was a precious commodity. When you encounter a recipe with such ingredients, you know it is an old one, from a time of perilous scarcity. Now I bake these cookies every December. At first, Dear Husband would not eat them. Lard? ick! But once he found that the recipe had such a long family history, he has taken to them and even finds them to be good to eat..

Original recipeScaled down recipePreheat oven to 325F.
1 cup lard
2 cups molasses
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup lard
2/3 cup molasses 2/3 tsp cinnamon
Mix together, either by creaming by hand or by using an electric mixing device.
‘as much flour as necessary to make a soft dough rollable’ 1 cup white whole wheat flour*Stir in the flour thoroughly.
Cinnamon red-hotsRoll out in batches on a floured surface to around ¼” thickness. Cut in your preferred shape. I use a Moravian Star** and press a red-hot into the center of each one.
Bake on parchment paper until firm to the touch, 6-8 minutes. Let cool on the pan. These cookies store well, as a ‘frontier’ cookie would need to do.

*I use white whole wheat flour because I think it is more like flour that would have been available in 1840. **The Moravians are a common religious group in eastern Pennsylvania, so I think that their many-pointed Christmas star is an appropriate cookie shape. If you want a Christmas Cookie with a history, try these.

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