Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

Ten days ‘til Christmas and I’m helpless when it comes to those cute little cookies. Some of them aren’t so little! And neither am I, once the festive tin has been emptied. What with all the parties at the office, I expect to gain about 6 pounds by New Year’s Day.

Here’s the real problem – Christmas cookie bakers are also pushers.

Typical scenario – an e-mail goes out to everyone in our department saying there are cookies in such and such a location. The mingle bells are ringing, and all work stops. Within moments, crowds are streaming past my desk, all on their way to load up with goodies. If I don’t immediately join the herd, people swoop in as they walk by, saying something like “Christmas cookies by the coffeemaker”, as if that’s a magic phrase that will allow me to drop everything I’m doing at the moment.

Before long, the social pressure becomes unbearable. I can hear them down there, talking and laughing and munching, and it becomes difficult to concentrate. I do believe in sociability and teamwork, so I get up.

When I arrive at the scene, someone grabs a little paper plate and begins loading it up with gingerbread snowmen, toffee squares and snickerdoodles. I say I’m watching my diet and people scoff. “C’mon, it’s Christmas,” they say, as if that somehow suspends the well-documented physiological effect of massive amounts of sugar and fat.

In some ways, I think the Christmas cookie crowd is the opposite of a therapy group. They are a community of food abuse sufferers, bent on self-destruction and committed to dragging you into their sad pool of caloric misery in the name of glad tidings and good cheer. They foist their morsels on you with such earnestness it borders on an insult if you refuse to take one or seven of these tiny fat bombs back to your desk.

Dr. Babooner, I want to be nice, but Christmas cheer is killing me.

Sincerely,
Santa’s Overstuffed Sack

I told S.O.S. that is is OK to lie at Christmas time if the goal is self preservation. I would tell the cookie pushers that I am under doctor’s orders to eat only vegetables at work. In fact, bringing a tray of festive green celery and jolly red radishes to the Christmas party is a great strategy that might succeed in getting everyone back to work more quickly!

Another tactic – let co-workers know about a newly released study that indicates exercise is much more potent in its effects against weight gain and the onset of diabetes if that exercise is done in a “fasted state”. So tell everyone you’ll be happy to enjoy a plate of cookies with them – after you lead the group through an exhausting regimen of jumping jacks and push-ups. That will help you manage the extra calories, and it might get your name permanently removed from the Impromptu Cookie Binge e-mail list!

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

74 thoughts on “Ask Dr. Babooner”

  1. Having taken cookies to work on Monday and sent out an email that said “Cookies in the Shipping Cube” (aka the Food Cube), I don’t think I get to have an opinion this morning, do I?

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    1. Too many kinds to be listed here; the teenager chose all the cookies this year, so very traditional (snickerdoodle, thumbprint, mexican wedding cakes, frosted sugar, pb blossoms, etc). My mother was here over Thanksgiving and I felt like Rachel Ray. Every time I set down a measuring cup or a spoon, my mother would whisk it away and wash it and dry it. I could really handle that on a regular basis.

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  2. Rise and Shine Babooners:

    I love Christmas cookies! Poor SOS.

    Dear SOS:

    You sound whiny and complainy. This is Christmas at the Office. Just get over it or stop eating the cookies. Just say NO if you don’t want to eat the cookies?
    Try Weight Watchers–they just rolled out their new program.

    Not very simpathetic am I? Sorry. I just can’t help it. I find whiny to be very wearing.

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      1. that takes out about half the population doesn’t it? or maybe those aren’t the ones looking to help themselves get through the problem they just make noise as a vehicle to get attention. i think i get it.

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  3. Dear SOS,
    AS a holiday gift I will share with you my coffee strategy. I don’t like coffee (not even coffee ice cream). When I first moved to Minnesota, I spent entire social gatherings declining coffee. Finally I realized if I accepted the 1st cup, the offers ceased. With cup in hand I joined the gathering and at the end some innocent plant or trash can ate up.

    Take a little plate with cookies, join the conversation, and escort the cookies out of the gathering. Connections made; cookies uneaten; life goes on.

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    1. Exactly the strategy my German-Lutheran-non-coffee-drinking-pastor-dad employed among the Danes of Western Iowa where I grew up (and learned to drink coffee that was mostly milk at about age 7).

      Sadly, he did not also eschew the cookies, which has done his health no good.

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  4. Caroline: I see you were asking about my possum rug yesterday. The real story of the possum rug has not been told on this site. If you (or anyone else) would like to read “Take This Bird and Stuff It” (it’s just five pages long), write me and I’ll send you a Word Document with it. If you can’t read a Word document, tell me and we’ll do a workaround.

    You can contact me at mnstorytelr @ Comcast . net (without the extra spaces).

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    1. Dear Mr. Grooms,
      Please send your story, Take This Bird and Stuff It to the usual address for all things literary.

      Thank you sincerely,
      Catherine (maybe then I can figure out which word for a revered thing I am trying to think of to describe said possum rug).

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  5. Greetings! As much as I love Christmas cookies, I also try to avoid them. I purposely don’t do any baking because the world is overloaded with sugar & fat bombs at this time of year and it’s just too hard to refuse them each time. What I find annoying are women who insist on baking tons of cookies, then whine and complain about how they don’t have time to do the baking they want. Well — don’t do it! I know we equate home baked goodies with showing love, but over-indulging each time a cookie tray comes around is just dangerous. Some traditions just don’t need to continue. Bah humbug.

    Sign me off as the “Baking Scrooge.” {oops — too much time spent here — work calls!}

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    1. i think i remember that you agreed with the free drinks for friends of the band tradition at the red stag though. cookies and toddies are different though i agree

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      1. Tim, there are two Jims. I think you have Jim in Big Lake confused with Jim in Clarks Grove. I agree with the other Jim about the dangers of eating too many cookies, but, as I said below, I’m no good at doing this. I’m also glad to get free drinks, although I do usually try to keep away from excessive consumption unlike my tendencies with with cookies.

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  6. Dear SOS Jacque speaks for me on this one, although she is a bit kind. As I understand it, your office mates are trying to be generous with you, and your response is to claim you’ve been victimized. Blaming your office friends for the sugar you put in your mouth is cowardly and disagreeable.

    Without seeing you, I’m betting your butt is somewhere between “generous” and “Jenny Craig.” That’s okay. I grew up in a culture that accepted big butts, but only when accompanied by a good attitude. Chubby folks were expected to have a decent sense of humor. The combination of a sour attitude and a lumpy derrière will serve you badly. Now . . . try smiling and pass me some of those fudge squares, okay?

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    1. What Steve said, with the additional caveat that I was taught in my PK days that the correct and polite response to undesireable (for any reason, including health) food was, “no thank you” full stop, no further explication, explanation or dissertation.

      Insistence was to be met with an quiet, “well, maybe just one, they look soooo good” to be dealt with as outlined by Beth-Ann above. If you can cultivate other topics of conversation other than your weight and health concerns, you may well find that no one even notices if you are actually eating or not.

      Mingle widely, and even the most persistant cookie pusher will be unable to tell exactly how many you have consumed. They have better things to do (like to see if there are any pecan tassies left).

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  7. dear sos please tell dale it’s ok to go through the denial portion of job transition here in the group it’s ok. if there are cookies in your workplace by the coffeemaker it’s because you put them there. I have similar problems with potato chips. I buy them then try unsuccessfully to ignore them.
    the concept of office gatherings are something I have witnessed and participated in but that family unit called colleagues at work are often the most dysfunctional family you participate in. cookies do offer an excellent distraction and a fresh environment for payton place incubation
    of rumor mill start ups perhaps with holiday sprinkles on them. I think maybe it’s time to accept that you have escaped the holiday balderdash of pretend civility before the cliques regather and diss your ugly sweater and how dry your sugar cookies were. move on and enjoy the
    fact that virtual christmas cookies are much less fattening albeit lacking tremendously in taste and texture vs the dysfunctional office colleague
    version and that the new holiday cheer found by we in the home office mode can be a little stark but with your imaginative insertions as witnessed here, i have no concerns about the total level of holiday cheer transferred from desktop to cerebellum. hot buttered rum… now that’s a different story altogether.

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  8. Dear SOS –

    As a sometime treat and cookie bringer, I will admit to being one of the “pushers.” That said, here are some great reasons you can’t sample my wares: you are working with a doctor to figure out some food intolerances and need to avoid gluten for now (this may mean if you had a sandwich or pizza for lunch, you need to find a different excuse), you just got back from a potluck with another project team (works best if you have a meeting on a different floor, though you might graciously take one cookie from the new batch if pressed), “I’m right in the middle of something and I don’t want to lose my train of thought – I’ll check over later and see what’s left” (wait to “check” until most of the cookie pushers are gone – they may see you walk over to the goodies, but they don’t have to see if you took any).

    I work on a team with a number of goodie pushers. I will admit to being helpless against the fats, sugars and carbohydrates. Here is my strategy: take a small something (or maybe two small somethings if I’m feeling indulgent), and go back to my desk. If I stand near the goodies, I will eat more. If someone piles your plate with other things, well, Miss Manners would never approve, but you needn’t tell your “pusher” that. Use the Beth-Ann method and return with the plate to your desk and dispose of the unwanted treats discretely.

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  9. i wonder how joanne in the new thermonuclear community is doing presenting tofu cookies to the new office mates. maybe she could ad some of that stuff that makes them glow in the dark and see how that goes over with the dimly lit corner of the food cube.
    i personally have a problem with sweet stuff, whatever the opposite of a sweet tooth is thats what i have. i can to the scottish shortbread, a sugar cookie or two but the fudgey caramely globs put me in a coma for the forseeable future. gutbombs is what i call them. steve i love the comment about big butts with a sense of humor. generous and jenny craig is a good summation of the butt catagory you are referring to. i like it. i will be sending off my request for the take this bird and stuff it story. looking forward to it.

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  10. Good morning to all and to S. O. S.

    I think I am in the same boat with Sherrilee. I am not the right person to give advice about avoiding christmas cookie eating. My tendency is to eat every cookie in sight. I do try to leave a few for others, but they better not wait too long. I could probably come to your office, S. O. S., and take care of those cookies that they are pushing you to eat. I generally eat healthy food except when it comes to sweets. Are you sure that sugar isn’t a health food?

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  11. Sort of on-topic, sort of not…I have Amish Friendship Bread starter ready to be divided. I have promised one starter batch to a co-worker (her eyes got *really* big when I brought up loaves and starter from Ben when he dropped by last week and she immediately asked for starter when it was ready), but will have another starter that is free to a good home if any of the Twin Cities Baboons would like some. If you are all full of holiday treats already, there will be more in another 10 days or so… 🙂

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    1. bring one to bbc for me if you can get the timing right. i am off to florida tomorrow for the holidays and the started would be too tricky for me.

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      1. tim- don’t get sucked into the starter. Just encourage finished product delivery….
        … sorry Anna, I had to do it for tim’s own sake; had to save him from himself. At least in this case.

        I might not get to baking until Sunday; the next couple days are full. Have fun! Do you have a preferred baking ‘atmosphere’ in your kitchen?
        I prefer an empty house so I can crank up some baking music, something to drink- water, Kool-aid, or alcoholic– but I tend to loose count too then so careful with that one…

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      2. tim – I can refrigerate some if the timing is off for bbc – Ben assures me that I can pause the starter by refrigerating it (how long does that work, Ben? A few days? a week?).

        Ben – my only criteria if I’m doing serious baking is that no one fusses at me if I make a mess. I have some stuff that I bake that works better with help (the annual rolling of the krumkake is attended by my pal Steph who calls it the annual “ouch ouch ouch hot hot hot”), others are best if I have elbow room (kneading bread). Alcohol is best avoided when I bake lest I lose count of the number of cups of flour or add too much “flavoring”…

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      3. Anna, you can refrigerate as long as you need. I keep it in the fridge all summer.
        I like the “ouch ouch ouch hot hot hot” kind of cookies…

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  12. I’m squarely in the C’mon-it’s Christmas camp. If you eat a lot of cookies, you can simply eat less other foods to make up for it. The year is 52 weeks long, and if you eat sensibly for 50 of them and throw caution to the winds for a couple of weeks you should be okay.

    Besides, the goodies at Christmas are mostly home-baked and not loaded with trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and the like. Much better for you.

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  13. Morning–

    I have on my desk a bag of homemade caramels that a student left for me… I’ve had one. So far. I’m pretty good at temptation. I’ll follow it anywhere. Sometimes. And like Anna says of the bread, I kinda push that so call me guilty of clogging arteries and contributing to the slow death of the college grounds crew, my Dean, the business office, third shift Maintenance and the lady in the Mail room.
    Meeting last night had a plate full of cookies; luckily it stayed at the far end of the table for most of the meeting. I did get some wonderful, chocolate covered something or other; think chocolate chip cookie dough balls dipped in chocolate with maybe a touch of rum? Mmmmmmmm…..

    Off to my last class of ‘Learning to play nice’! Merry Christmas to me!

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  14. Dear SOS,
    Learn from the housing bubble. Cookies, like houses, themselves are not the problem. The cookies are just there and more can always be made. They are no more or less tempting than anything else you can’t afford to consume. Bentleys are nice too but do you drive one? For most of us, the answer is ‘no.’

    The problem here, as usual, is not the object itself but the people that are driving the demand of the object. Your undoing is ultimately your belief in sociability and teamwork. You need to start seeing your coworkers as the unscrupulous bastards that they truly are. They don’t feel any better about eating all of these cookies than you do. They’re only employing the ‘misery loves company’ strategy and trying to suck as many people as they can down in the miasma of guilt, self-loathing, and ill health with them as they can. Even drug pushers don’t generally consume as much of what they’re pushing as cookie pushers. My advice to you is to wake up, see how you’re being manipulated, and embrace becoming what your coworkers will call ‘stand-offish’ and ‘evil.’ Trust me. Top management will notice how you’re distancing yourself from the pack, willing to make the tough call, and glad to crush the pleas and niceties of those around you. It’s the fast track to success!

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      1. Yes, ha-ha-ha-ha!!! I’m retired so there are no cookie pushers, no top management, and certainly no plan to get on a fast track..

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  15. Dear SOS,

    The problem isn’t cookies or Christmas but your belief that you can never have any foods that fall into the fattening snack category. If you allow yourself the occasional high calorie treat, you will be able to take one cookie and stop at that. No harm done.

    One of the Doctors Baboon

    Hello, everyone. Hope all are well.

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  16. SOS, the best way to handle this is to become a cookie pusher yourself. Then you can beg off when others offer you their treats with the excuse that you baked so much just couldn’t bear to look another cookie in the face. People will see you as a friendly and giving person, and you won’t have to eat what you don’t wish to.

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  17. Dear S.O.S.,
    You could be like my co-workers and just ignore whatever someone brought, haha. I brought in a tin of cookies on Monday that I made while I was snowed in, and I’m the only one who’s eaten any. Oh well, I don’t mind. They’re yummy 🙂 I enjoy baking, but not eating everything I bake, haha.

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  18. Dear S.O.S.
    Well, we just cleaned up after our office potluck today. I am so stuffed I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it back to my desk. I wish I had read this blog before going in there! I felt obligated to take a helping from every dish!

    Every word TGiTH says is TRUE. He must know the same people I do! But I could be wrong…

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  19. While we’re at it, how about everyone check in with a description of your favorite Christmas (or any) cookie. I love the short-bread type ones, like
    – Russian Tea cakes (little rounds with pecan pieces, rolled in powdered sugar) and
    – thumbprint ones with sugar icing rather than jelly.

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    1. My favorites (although not the teenagers; she didn’t choose them this year) are called Vanilla Crescents… got it from a Lee Bailey cookbook. Ground walnuts, butter, flour, vanilla. Rolled out and cut in crescent shapes and when they come out of the oven, they go in granulated sugar while they are still warm. Yum yum.

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    2. I love Russian Tea Cakes. I also have a recipe for Skibo Castle Crunch, a thin, carmely gingery shortbread. Spritz and krumkake are also favorites.

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    3. Peanut butter blossoms with stars, not kisses, hands down! My mom makes a ton before Christmas, and they’re usually gone by the time us kids leave after Christmas, haha 🙂

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      1. Technical question-are stars getting harder to come by, and that is why you mostly see kisses anymore? Kisses are decidedly inferior to stars, you’ve got that right!

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      2. I admit that peanut butter blossoms are my favorite too…which is why I can’t make them. If I did, I’d eat them all and not share. That would be bad. If I don’t bake them, I don’t have dozens sitting around tempting me. I just snatch ’em up when I find them. Yummmmm.

        My favorite to make is krumkake. I have my grandmother’s recipe – though I prefer stovetop irons to her electric one (that just feels like cheating somehow…though I kinda get why Grandma used it – much easier when you’re making them without help). With the stovetop irons, I can keep two going with an assistant rolling the cookies. The house smells yummy while we work (unless I start one on fire – there’s a lot of butter in ’em, and all that grease is…flammable…as I have discovered more than once), and they’re fun to eat.

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      1. Just did some field research and my neighborhood grocery clearly had the start at one time, but are currently out. I don’t want to settle for kisses if I can get stars (and thanks for sending us down that road, verily) 🙂 !

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      1. they had a special on cbs sunday morning this week on the english love of christmas pudding. alcohol laceds cake that the english eat in high per capita quantities, gonna check out a rum and or champaigne laced version this year.
        my favorite is shortbread but its not very festive, i do have a sugar cookie recipe that is to die for from an old famliy friend. the on line recipe that is good is dolly partons sugar cookie recipe um,um,um!

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    4. I make spritz – those are my favorite. Chocolate crinkles, too, the ones rolled in powdered sugar. My sister and I used to do rosettes, but we haven’t done that for a long time, too busy at Christmastime. My mother used to make really good fruitcake. Most fruitcakes are overly heavy on the citron – I think that’s what most people don’t like about them.

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  20. I have an English translation of a Swedish cookie and cake cook book, and the recipes are pretty swell. The things you can do with butter, sugar, and flour!

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      1. Barbara, I’d be interested if your library can find this:
        ICA Test Kitchens
        Sju Sorters Kakor
        Swedish Cakes and Cookies
        English translation: Melody Favish
        2005 ICA bokforlag
        Forma Publishing Group AB, Vasteras

        There are umlauts in several places in those words, , but my keyboard isn’t set up for them

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  21. … and you all are reminding me of another favorite — kringla, a Norwegian cookie made in shape of a figure 8, or just a “Q”– learned from my grandma. Not much sugar, but flour, butter, buttermilk… Gonna make some tomorrow. 🙂

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  22. Renee – the Hennepin County System has it, 9 copies. I’ll check it out in January when it is due in to my Rockford Road branch…
    Swedish cakes and cookies / English translation, Melody Favish.
    Uniform Title Sju sorters kakor. English.
    Published New York, NY : Skyhouse Pub., c2008.
    188 p. : col. ill. ; 22 cm.
    Notes Translation of: Sju sorters kakored.
    ISBN 9781602392625 (alk. paper)
    1602392625 (alk. paper)

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