Lucille’s Cookies

by Maria Theresa Maggi on December 2, 2020

Lucille's Cookies

Long term memory is a funny thing. I never know the exact moment one will appear, but I often become aware one has arrived, sitting on my shoulder, waiting for me to engage. This pandemic year has been one of baking for a lot of us, so I guess it’s a natural development that this long ago cookie would pop its memory up 60 years later and whisper to me to try to make a version I can eat now.

I was four years old when my sister was born. My mother had some kind of bleeding complication that involved the ambulance coming to take her to the hospital. I remember them rushing in to the bedroom to take her out and my grandmother or cousin closing the door quickly so I wouldn’t see the blood on the sheets. But I did see it. It was a scary time, but I was assured everything would be alright. When she came home, my mother must have had restrictions on what she could lift or move because suddenly there was a nurse in our house every day for a while. She was a very large (both tall and wide) gray haired white woman who wore a white nurses uniform, a cap and white nursing shoes. She was in charge of my sister, my mother and many household tasks. She came from some southern state, I think, and she talked differently than I was familiar with and seemed quite severe. I was terrified of her–until she made these cookies.

Perhaps someone came to call on my Mom. I remember sitting around in a room with the curtains drawn with other adults and Lucille passing around a plate of these cookies she had made. Everyone ooed and aahhed and asked her for the recipe. The thing that got me was the maraschino cherries. I absolutely loved them as a child. In an era when children were offered mocktails like a Shirley Temple (seven up mixed with maraschino cherry juice and stemmed maraschino cherry), they were a sugary delight I would come to love. But maybe this day I had not yet had one of those. Maybe this day was my first taste of a maraschino cherry, sticking out of a decadent mix of chocolate chips (another profound favorite of mine I got addicted to early when my Mom would give me a small cup of them to eat while I watched Mickey Mouse or Popeye), oatmeal, coconut, frosted flakes, all rolled into a batter filled with creamed sugar and butter. Well, you can imagine.

I don’t know what got me thinking about them again, but as I was picking out my grocery items online I found myself searching for maraschino cherries and cornflakes. I can’t tell you how it made me smile to see a tiny glass jar of what couldn’t have been more than twenty of them, sitting in that bright fuchsia colored sugar syrup. I had to put them in my cart.

Each time I even think of them I smile. There wasn’t a lot I was made to feel proud of as a little girl of 4 or 5. I had a brace on my leg I had to explain to everyone and I was chubby and slower than the other kids. That these cherries brightened my world and made a day special when they appeared in a cookie, a drink, or a box of candy at a hard time must have always stayed with me. Maybe that’s why they’ve appeared as we head into a somber winter waiting for a public health policy to help truly turn this pandemic around. They are little pops of sweet and color, however fanciful, that comfort chronic melancholy like a kiss on the cheek.

My recipe is nowhere near the decadent result of Lucille’s long ago 1960 style triumph. It’s gluten free and oil and butter free, and it contains just enough of a smattering of chocolate chips, cherries and coconut to make biting into one a special treat. The corn flakes are organic, gluten free, and fruit sweetened. But still, they carry me back. And maybe they’ll bring a smile to your face too.

As my dear blogging friend Gena reminded me in her most recent Weekend Reading series, writing, like cookie making, has its own magic of connection when things are up in the air. I didn’t know until I started drafting this post what in the world might be the connection between my four year old self’s passionate love for maraschino cherries and my sixty four year old self wanting to taste one again. But now I understand it was literally a bright spot in the often somber world of the little girl I was so long ago. And seeing that bright sweet pop now gives me the same little lift. Nice to connect to that little version of me with a simple pleasure, beyond her uncomfortable shoes, her itchy coat and the mysteries the adults around her glossed over. I’m glad she brought me such a sweet taste from our past.

Maria (moonwatcher)


Leave a Comment

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amelia December 3, 2020 at 8:32 am

Wow. Thank you for the recipe and for the story. I happened to see these in a sidebar when I was looking at a spinach dip recipe. I loved your story. If I can find refined sugar and oil-free cornflakes, I would like to give these a try. I can do maraschino cherries, too. Since I’m doing low-no fat, I think I would replace the chocolate chips with raisins. How big is a large pinch of coconut flakes? Maybe a quarter cup? Also wondering how many cookies this recipe yields? if it’s around 12 or so, then that would be 2 grams of fat each from the coconut if 1/4 cup was right. I like the cranberry and orange zest idea. I may try to figure out if there’s something I can use in place of coconut, depending on the answers to these questions. 2 grams per cookie is still pretty low-fat (if I can limit myself to just one!) assuming I’m in the right ballpark re: measurements. Thank you again for this!


2 Maria Theresa Maggi December 3, 2020 at 10:43 am

Hey Amelia–thanks! These are great questions and you’re reminding me I need to go in and say this makes about a dozen cookies–sometimes a “baker’s dozen”–13. Also, dried cranberries go well with the maraschino cherries if you want to use those instead of chocolate chips. I’m thinking I probably only put a 1-2 tablespoons of coconut flakes in, since the chocolate chips have fat and I was trying to keep the fat down as well. So 1/4 cup would be perfect in your scenario. I eat two of these a day when I have them. 🙂 I follow Swank Diet recommendations of no more than 20 grams of fat a day. I sure hope you find a version that works for you and that you can enjoy! xoxo


3 Kelly Higgins December 3, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Be sure to use special gluten free cornflakes if you need these to be g/f. The regular ones from the grocery store are not g/f as they contain barley malt.


4 Maria Theresa Maggi December 3, 2020 at 7:47 pm

Thanks Kelly– good point. The ones I got actually are specifically gluten free. I will mention that.


5 Amelia December 9, 2020 at 9:06 am

Well, I made them! Instead of the 3 flours you listed, I used organic whole wheat flour because I do not have any noticeable sensitivity to gluten, and I replaced the chocolate chips with 20 grams of dried cranberries. I used the minimum amount of flaked coconut you suggested in your response to my comment above–1 tablespoon–and I used and ice cream scoop to form the cookies, which yielded about 10 so each one had about 4 calories of fat from the coconut–which is less than half a gram per cookie and I’m not worried about it (if I understand correctly, Dr. McDougall frowns on coconut, though I am not sure why since it’s a whole food. When I run out of the flaked coconut I bought specifically for these cookies, I might try making them again, replacing it with a tiny bit of coconut extract). I did not have any cashew yogurt, so I used the recommended 2/3 cup of soy milk instead of 1/2 a cup and did not bother with the maraschino-soaked flaxseed meal, though I expect it would have added some extra sweetness of the cherry variety but no worries because these were delicious as they were! (I might try adding that next time.) The bottle of maraschino cherries said to use within 4 weeks of opening and I do not foresee that being a problem 🙂 Thanks again for such a lovely recipe!


6 Maria Theresa Maggi December 9, 2020 at 12:10 pm

I’m so glad the version you came up with worked out so well for you, Amelia! Bravo! And I have to say I laughed with delight at that last sentence about not forseeing a problem with using up the cherries before 4 weeks is up! Happy Holidays to you! xo


7 Susan Voisin December 14, 2020 at 12:34 pm

Maria, I am late to reading this post, but I have to say that those are the most beautiful cookies ever! Thanks, as always, for your insight and wisdom, from a fellow childhood maraschino lover. (My family didn’t use them, but my best friend’s mom always had them in her refrigerator to use in mixed drinks. I snuck into the fridge for them so often that my friend bought me a jar as a Christmas present. 🤣 )


8 Maria Theresa Maggi December 14, 2020 at 2:52 pm

Dear Susan–thank you so much! I’m very happy to hear this post brought back your own love of maraschino cherries from when you were a child. I love your story of sneaking into your best friend’s fridge for one out of their jar and how she gave you your own for Christmas! Good delicious memories all around xoxo


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