Holden Caulfield and the Too-Good-to-Throw Snowball Cookies


The nostalgic journey through my bookshelves continues, and I can’t overlook this character: Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye‘s misguided rebel with a golden core—-well, maybe it was golden before he smoked all those cigarettes.

People tend to love or hate Holden, his critics labeling him a whiny kid who won’t act on anything.  In his defense, so is Hamlet, but we still keep him around.  I happen to be one of his fans—-how can you not love a teenager that tries to wipe away the “Fuck You” graffiti  to protect the innocence of children? A teen who mock-tap dances in the bathroom of his prep school to get a rise out of his roommate,  prancing around the washbowl saying, “I’m the goddamn Governor’s son. He doesn’t want me to be a tap dancer. He wants me to go to Oxford. But it’s in my goddamn blood, tap-dancing. It’s the opening night of the Ziegfeld Follies. The leading man can’t go on. He’s drunk as a bastard. So who do they get to take his place? Me, that’s who. The little ole goddamn Governor’s son.” I’ve read the book more than I care to admit, and that scene gets me every time.

Besides loving it for my own selfish enjoyment, this book is also extremely teachable.  It’s an exemplary bildungsroman (if you’re a writer and your coming-of-age text gets compared to Catcher, consider it high praise), and it has symbolism coming out the wazoo—-the baseball glove, the hunting hat, the snowball, the carousel, the record, the ducks, the museum, the graffiti, the actual song “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye”…you can’t throw a punch at an elevator pimp without hitting something symbolic in this text.

The story doesn’t exactly spin warm fireside fuzzies, but it does take place in New York at Christmastime, so it captures a certain holiday feel.  The recipe for snowball cookies was inspired by the scene below:

“I didn’t throw [the snowball] at anything, though. I started to throw it. At a car that was parked across the street. But I changed my mind. The car looked so nice and white. Then I started to throw it at a hydrant, but that looked too nice and white, too. Finally I didn’t throw it at anything. All I did was close the window and walk around the room with the snowball, packing it harder.”

I mean, come on.  How could you not slip into a frenzy of literary analysis on that one?! Not wanting to muss up something so white and pure? Not finding an emotional release, so instead packing those feelings in tighter? (You’ll have to excuse my nerd-isode.) Don’t worry, the only thing you’ll be packing these snowballs into is your belly.  Maybe your handbag.

I used Food Network’s version, because it’s the Food Network.  However, there are other versions that use pecans instead of almonds, and depending on your locale, they might also be called Mexican wedding cookies.  Click here for a link to the OG recipe.

Almond Snowball Cookies


3/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, sliced and softened (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup confectioners’ sugar


Pulse the almonds and sugar in a food processor until very finely ground. Add the butter and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the dough off the inside of the bowl, if needed. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and pulse to combine. Add the flour and salt and pulse to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of waxed paper and roll into a log about 15 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut the chilled dough into 1/2-inch pieces and roll by hand into balls. Space the cookies evenly on the prepared baking sheets and bake until slightly golden, rotating the sheets once, 15 to 20 minutes. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a pie plate. Briefly cool the cookies on a rack, then gently toss in the confectioners’ sugar until evenly coated. Return to rack, cool to room temperature, and then toss again in the confectioners’ sugar.


Wishing you all a Merry Everything from A Lit.eral Interpretation.  Enjoy the family, the goodies, the awkward silences when relatives ask insinuating questions.  And as Holden would say, “Sleep tight, ya morons!”



One thought on “Holden Caulfield and the Too-Good-to-Throw Snowball Cookies

  1. Thomas Basili

    Hi, I’m a teacher and I came across your piece here as I’m preparing some lessons on Catcher and I just wanted you to know I love it. I might even have my students read it. Thanks for writing something insightful that sparks enthusiasm for great literature. You write about this book the way Holden writes about the kettle drum player at the Radio City Christmas show, and that’s no phoniness!


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