instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

Suitcase Full of Cookies


In 2008, my husband encouraged me to enter a cookie contest. It was sponsored by a well known San Francisco radio station. Hundreds of people entered and from those, I was one of 25 contestants chosen to prepare a special cookie. My cookie was a very involved sandwich cookie from Argentina, called an Alfajore. We prepared 200 samples for the cookie judging. The panel of judges included an Iron Chef, a noted cookbook author and other experts in the field of cookie baking and eating. I placed second in the contest and it was a huge honor.

I owe my love of baking to my Mother, Hannelore. She was not a famous baker, but her level of skill in the kitchen would have rivaled many professional chefs' creations.

Our Mother grew up in Nazi Germany, and survived the Holocaust. She lived through 5 different camps from the tender age of 11, and lost her entire family to the Nazis. At the age of 18, she was liberated and eventually found her way to America. She accomplished many things, without the benefit of family, formal education, or wealth. This book is the story of one of those skills; her love of and aptitude for, baking. It is also the story of a courageous and resilient woman, who survived the unthinkable, and went on to live her dream in America.

I felt well qualified to enter that cookie contest. I had just returned from my 80 year young Mother's kitchen, for our 3rd annual cookie baking event. Little did we know that it would be our last baking event with Mom, as she became terminally ill the following year. My two sisters and I had flown to Mom's house, where she had many recipes prepped and ready to go for our cookie making marathon. While I am sure that getting together to make cookies may not be that unusual, I seriously doubt that many make 1500 cookies of a dozen different varieties! Even fewer carry an empty suitcase, so that it might be filled with carefully protected and packaged cookies that would survive the return flight home. We three sisters spent 4 days making cookies upon cookies, under the guidance of Hannelore.

Sadly, Mom passed away in 2009. She had cancer, and deserved a much kinder ending to her life. She believed she was spared during the Holocaust, to have her three girls. And at the end of her life, we lovingly took care of her. There is not a passing day, that I do not think of her and how much she meant to us.

As Mom knew she was dying, she asked to do "something" with our baking. I think she had in mind some type of baking class, or business endeavor that would keep her love of baking alive.

To paraphrase Elie Weisel, who survived Auschwitz and later went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, remembering is what matters. And so I remember our Mother, by recounting her inspiring story and sharing her amazing and unique recipes. This book is a tribute to a phenomenal lady, who overcame great adversity, yet maintained a positive attitude throughout her life. She lives on through her girls and her grandchildren; and through her recipes in this book.