Nesika Beach resident Ken Ashcroft takes great joy in baking his “Christmas Kookies” for friends, businesses, police and neighbors. The Pilot/Submitted photo
Ken Ashcraft is baking a few Christmas cookies again this year.
He’s got gingersnaps with a kick, sweet snickerdoodles and soft mincemeat cookies.
He’s got them by the dozens – as in 260 dozen.
And he’s just over half-way done.
The Nesika Beach man has been mixing and baking and delivering dozens of cookies to friends, businesses, police and neighbors since before Thanksgiving. Last year, he made 340 dozen – 4,080 cookies.
Rumor had it at Gold Beach Books he was going to make 392 dozen this year.
“I’ve got to beat last year’s,” he said. “If it goes to 392, I’ll make it an even 400. But I have to do better than last year; she keeps giving them to new people.”
“She” is his wife, Beth, who keeps the fire going in the living room while Ashcraft toils over a hot stove for hours every day.
“I try to stay out of the kitchen.” she said with a smile.
“He knows exactly what he’s doing. I don’t see how he can stand to be in there all day cooking, but he enjoys it. And people are so thrilled to get them.”
Ashcraft makes his cookies in batches, which comprise 10 to 12 dozen a batch. He goes through pounds of flour, sugar and butter, scores of eggs and lots of spices.
The couple collect their supplies year-round – and the questions start coming in June: “Has he started? Has he started yet?”
He tallies each batch as he bakes it; tallies the cookies again when he makes his deliveries.
“But since I started this year, I’m 11 plates short,” he mused. “That means I baked 11 more than I’ve delivered. ... Either I’ve missed writing some down, or I’ve eaten an awful lot.”
The first batch of cookies he made, some 20 years ago, was for a group of children he saw outside in the cold in Alaska, fenced in at a primary school class.
“It was snowin’ and blowin’, and I wondered, ‘What’s so important that they have ‘em all out in the cold?’” he said. “So, I robbed some snipe’s nest for the eggs and made them some cookies.”
Ashcraft started baking cookies locally about 15 years ago when he worked for a gravel company that gave Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas hams to its employees each year. Ashcraft thought it’d be nice to give back.
So when the firm offered a drawing for those who paid their end-of-year bills early, there was a plate of cookies awaiting them as well.
“It’s grown,” he said, understating the obvious. “You deliver one person a plate of cookies, and there’s someone else lookin’ on. It caught on and expanded.”
A poem he’s memorized keeps him inspired:
“God so loved the world, he sent Jesus down/Wise men knelt before him in a Judean town/We give each other presents, we give each other large and small/In the memory of God’s gift to us, the greatest gift of all.”
“This is not about the holidays, the holiday season,” he emphasized. “I do it for the true meaning of Christmas. This is an act of giving.”
After all the baking, the giving begins. The couple delivers Kenny’s Kookies as far north as Coos Bay to the people in their church, as far east as Agness and Kimball Creek to three families, and south to Brookings. Even more are shipped to far-flung locales where friends and children live.
The bank gets three plates, the Dairy Queen two. There’s the grocery store, the police station, Beth’s hairdresser and her employees, their bank, Gold Beach Lumber, the bookstore, neighbors and friends.
“I can’t get them all,” he said with a laugh. “And it wouldn’t take too long for something like this to get out of hand.”
Ashcraft has no idea how much it all costs, nor does he have the desire — never has — to go commercial.
“It ain’t all that big an operation,” he said. “If I got into the commercial side, then you gotta start watching pennies and nickels. Take all the fun out of it.”
If costs go up – for example, butter isn’t cheap, and one batch of snickerdoodles takes an entire pound of it – it could be a different Christmas for Ashcraft and all the people to whom he gives cookies. Last year, the couple used 100 pounds of flour, 75 pounds of sugar and several five-dozen flats of eggs.
“I told the lady at the store if prices keep going up and up and up, I’m going to have to have some help, or cut back on cookies. Or they’re going to taste an awful lot like axle grease,” he said, smiling. “And she said, ‘Have you priced axle grease lately?’”
The only thing he’s altered in his routine was going from a wooden spoon and a Tupperware bowl to a mixer.
“There’s nothing greater than to be able to give,” he said. “I’m hooked on the good feeling. I like to see people go, ‘For me?’ I just do it for the pleasure.”