Cookies in America

By on Monday, December 23rd, 2013

(Written with Gail Hartzell)

Friends and family gather at Gail Hartzell’s home in Ohio for a taste of cookie history.

“In the childhood memories of every good cook, there’s a large kitchen, a warm stove, and a simmering pot of love.”

Cookies aren’t an American invention but you wouldn’t know it around Christmas. The tradition of baking homemade butter cookies, cut into various festive shapes and frosted green and red is as sacred as Santa. Millions of bloggers swap recipes, decorating tips, all wrapped around the lore of “the family who bakes together, stays together.”

Gail Hartzell of Uniontown, Ohio takes this time-honored pastime to new heights. She just hosted her second annual Heritage Cookie Swap to honor treasured memories of time spent with her grandmother, Mary Endlich, gathering friends and family to share stories of Christmases past, swap vintage recipes of cookies and recall family traditions.

Grandma Endlich would be 122 years old this Christmas.

Using Grandma Mary’s handmade aprons, rolling pins and antique bowls, Gail and her daughter, Katie, baked their favorite one hundred year old year recipe of Grandma’s Ginger Cookies to honor this years’ Christmas Tradition.

Honoring Grandma

The idea of the annual cookie swap was inspired by a cookbook/scrapbook that Gail crafted paying tribute to Grandma Endlich’s farm lifestyle and the love and pride that went into her cooking and baking. True to her Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, Grandma Endlich was a simple, “from the earth” farm-raised cook who grew and canned most of her own fruits and vegetables. She used sight and feel for measuring ingredients–a lump of lard the size of a walnut or an egg was the exact amount for a flaky crust.

Gail’s collection of vintage recipes, post cards, photos and farm memorabilia are rich reminders of Christmases past.

The use of fruits, nuts and molasses in her recipes instead of chocolate or marshmallows was another signature technique, telling of Grandma Endlich’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots.

“When I bake ginger cookies using my Grandma Endlich’s 100+ year recipe, I’m participating in a tradition that has endured in our family for over a century.” says Gail. “With each bite I taste, I remember my most cherished childhood memories of Christmas; Grandma in her warm kitchen baking and the two of us spending time together.”
(Next page: See photos of Gail’s annual cookie swap)

Here are the photos of a most perfect cookie-making day:

Gail’s daughter Katie became so interested in the stories of her ancestors that she decided to make a scrapbook of her own.

The quintessential 100-year-old ginger cookie recipe from Mary Endlich.

Gail’s hand crafted scrapbooks highlight the time she spent with her grandmother learning the art of cooking and baking down on the farm.

Grandma and great-grandmother, farm wives and great bakers.

Barb (right) and daughter Megan, who represents the next generation at the heritage cookie swap.

Written by Linda Iaderosa

Linda Iaderosa, a producer and writer, has this to say: "Living in San Jose, attending Stanford with my wonderful husband and writing for food--life couldn't be more delicious!"


  1. Vickie Beck says:

    What a great story do family and history

  2. Ingrid says:

    I enjoyed this article I am German and I try to keep my family heritage What a nice honor to her grandma

  3. Nadine says:

    I love love love this heart warming story Gail grandma would be honored

  4. Cheryl Ruegg says:

    This is so enjoyable to read. I would love to take my grandma receipts and create a cook book someday. Love this

  5. karen says:

    This story brings out so many emotions about how incredibly strong the strings of our heart can hold on through the passage of time. Everyone should learn a lesson from this article, about how important it is to spend time with family and friends. The memories we make today will be honored in years to come in so many wonderful ways. Bravo to Gail for taking so much time to make the scrapbook/cookbook, and then to actually bake all those wonderful recipes for her family. Gail, Grandma is so proud of you! (And your house is adorable!) One of my favorite family articles ever!

  6. Lisa Dunn says:

    It was a joy reading this article and listening to Bryan with the stories about how Laura would run over to see what kind of cookies they were eating! Not to many people have the chance to have an article in a magazine, very proud of you!
    Love ya! Lisa

  7. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who read this story, and wrote so many wonderful, positive comments. I’m honored that Linda took the time to put together this article, and I would be so happy to know that others will also make a scrapbook/ cookbook as a memorial for a loved one. “Take time to make a memory!”

  8. Vickie beck says:

    Enjoyed this article. We have a big family and what a great idea fir us it start a cook book if traditional recipe ‘s

  9. Kris V says:

    A co-worker of mine gave me this website and told me to check out this story.What a wonderful story! I would love to put together a book of my Grandma’s recipes. My mother still makes a lot of them. It’d be nice to have them all organized!

  10. angela says:

    Great story of a wonderful family tradition!

  11. Loved Gail’s Wonderful, Warm and Loving story so much I had to hunt up my family’s handed down recipe for ginger cookies and make several batches for friends. Thanks so much Gail for all the memories

  12. sandy says:

    Gail, what a great story! I’m so happy somebody finally recognized your talent and hard work that comes straight from the heart!

  13. Dave & Cindy says:

    Hi Gail! What a wonderful story about you & Grandma Mary! Sounds like the two of you had a lot of fun in the kitchen!

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