Yesterday I spent ten hours holiday shopping, then came home and made cookies. In the spirit! I really love doing the Yule crawl all in one fell swoop, along with all the other procrastinators; the mood in the air, turning like the tide from frantic to resolute to cheerily sardonic as the day wears out, is a once-a-year thing. It should be a reality show. Survivor: Chrismakuh. The one who finds Hanukah gelt in a Rite-Aid as the lights go off at closing time (that would be me!) wins.
Then came the lovely part...the family was nestled all snug in their beds, and I set to grating Frangos. Life is so much better with a Frango in your hand. Unfortunates unfamiliar with the department-store treat can only vicariously experience the melty-mouthed joy each individually wrapped bit of chocomintbutter brings. (Variations: chocorumbutter, chocotoffeebutter, chocopeanutbutter, and many more now that the brand's gone flavor-crazy.)
You Chicagoans, don't even start with the "Marshall Field's gave birth to Frangos" line -- we Seattleites know that the delectable delights originated in our own Frederick & Nelson, the classiest department store in town back in the roaring early 20th century. The Frangos tale is a troubling saga of brand abuse in the age of corporate mergers, from the Midwestern store's false ownership claims in the early century to right now -- the manufacturer recently sued Bon-Macy's (the Bon Marche inherited the candy when F&N went out of business, and now that venerable department store's been sucked up by Macy's) for the right to sell at -- where else? -- Cosco. I'm just glad it's not at Wal-Mart.
My Frango memories involve the original F&N store, which had a great kitschy diner called the Paul Bunyan Room in the basement where you could get a thick-as-a-brick Frango shake and sit and watch the old ladies gossip in their car coats. And the pyramids that dot the store every Xmas, now on view at Macy's, those hexagonal boxes glimmering red and copper and green. And of course, Frangos under the tree.Everybody in my family got another one this year. I freeze mine and dole two out each eve as a nightcap, a little heavenly sin.
For me, Frangos represent the pinnacle of consumerist tradition -- the world of secular ritual we develop to create continuity, and plain unity, in a diverse and changing world. No glowing divine child must be invoked to enjoy Frangos, yet somehow they capture the spirit of a season, the wintry moment when the sun is at its scarcest and we need a little sweet to warm us up. In that spirit, I offer this reciple for Frango cookies. They're very fun to make -- can't beat the smell and sneak-a-bite taste of grated mint chocolate -- and they were a major hit at my cousin Dee Dee's Christmas party, just hours ago. One caveat: they make about half of what the recipe claims. Some marketer's hype, that number, no doubt.
FRANGO MINT COOKIES
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup grated (or very finely chopped) Frango mint chocolates
2—1/4 cups flour, unsifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts
1-1/2 cups chopped (approx. 1/4 lb.) Frango mint chocolates.
Cream butter, shortening and sugars until light. Add eggs, vanilla and grated Frango mint chocolates. Beat until creamy and well blended. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together. Add sifted ingredients to beaten egg mixture, blending carefully. Beat about 20 seconds. Fold in chopped nuts and chopped Frango mint chocolates, blending well. Beat for 30 seconds. Drop heaping teaspoons of cookie dough onto greased cookie sheets, allowing at least one-inch space between cookies. Bake in preheated 375ºF oven for 8–11 minutes. Remove cookies from cookie sheets and allow to cool on rack. Yields approximately 8 dozen cookies.