Ode to a Thimble…how a little piece of plastic inspired me

Because I was busy this week writing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I didn’t get to write a new blog post.  Instead I pulled out this item I wrote a few year’s ago to share with you.  Hope you enjoy it.

Yesterday I invited two friends to lunch on my patio.  It was Monday.  Can you image that?  I’m preparing to close my business at the end of the year, so I no longer feel the need to spend every free minute trying to develop new business.  I am 60 years old, and sometimes when I say that, I can’t believe it’s true.  I don’t feel the way I imagine a 60 year old feels.  Or, perhaps it’s just that I feel no different than I’ve always felt.  In some ways, I feel better, stronger…surely wiser, but I digress…

The yellow thimble sitting in my sewing basket, easy to locate even after a 750 mile relocation.

The yellow thimble sitting in my sewing basket, easy to locate even after a 750 mile relocation.

The real reason I’m writing this is to pay homage to a homely little object…a small, yellow, plastic thimble that has resided in my little sewing box for as long as I can remember.  My sewing experience has been limited to button repair, and the occasional hem.  I never use the thimble when I sew.  I’ve only ever used it when I bake cookies.

That may sound strange, but there is a recipe in my well-worn Joy of Cooking called Jam Tots.  It calls for you to bake the cookies for 5 minutes, then open the oven, and using your thumb (which I don’t recommend because the dough is just too hot), or a thimble, depress a hole in the center of each cookie.  Continue baking for 8 more minutes.  Next you allow the cookies to cool and proceed to fill them with jelly or jam.

I discovered the recipe probably 30 years ago.  My mother, father and two sisters re-located from New Jersey to South Carolina.  I inherited all of the leftovers in their refrigerators, which included 3 or 4 jars of jelly.  I didn’t eat much jelly, so I wondered what to do with it all.  Now, I’m sure you are thinking, “You could have just thrown it out.”  Somehow, in spite of the fact that I was born in 1951, the dead center of the Baby Boom, I was a child of depression era parents.  We didn’t waste anything.  And I went to Catholic school where we actually learned proverbs like “Waste not; want not” in school.  Do they teach children proverbs anymore?  I wonder sometimes, if they teach them anything.  But again, I digress…

So back to the jelly surplus.  One weekend I opened my Joy of Cooking in search of uses for the jelly and discovered the Jam Tot recipe.  I went to my sewing box, which was a Christmas gift from my mother a few years before.  There was a yellow thimble, which I put to use baking my first recipe of Jam Tots.  They were quite a success, and I even remember taking some over to the elderly woman who lived next door.

That was nearly 30 years ago.  Since then I moved to a condominium where I lived for 5 years, and, as a result of the real estate boom in the 80’s, I was able to sell my condominium and buy the house whose upstairs apartment I had lived in when I first discovered the Jam Tot recipe.  Last year a friend of mine gave me a jar of Lemon Raspberry Marmalade.  Once again, I pulled out my Joy of Cooking, sought my thimble and created a very “adult” cookie that was a hit with my book club.  Yesterday, I realized I didn’t have a satisfactory dessert for my patio lunch, and at the last minute decided to bake another batch of Jam Tots with Lemon Raspberry Marmalade…you see I’m still not a big jam/jelly/marmalade consumer.

As I put the cookie dough in the refrigerator to chill, I went to look for the thimble.  And, of course, it was right there in the sewing box, waiting to serve.  As I picked it out of the box, I was struck by how infrequently I used it, but how perfect it was for the job at hand.  What also struck me was the fact that sometimes I can’t locate something I bought last week, but the thimble was exactly where I knew it would be, where it has been for more than 30 years.

This humble little piece of plastic has been with me for most of my adult life, and that I found momentarily awe-inspiring.  In a world where thimbles have become ‘useless’ collectibles, and where I have made three trips to Best Buy to dispose of obsolete and broken electronic and digital equipment that I’ve owned for less than five years, this little yellow thimble survives and has purpose.  As I embrace my 6th decade I am delightfully inspired by a thimble.

My Inspiration!

My Inspiration!


Jam/Jelly Tot Recipe

Makes about forty-two 1-1/4 inch cookies

Cream 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar with 1/ 2 cup butter.

Beat in:

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Roll the dough into a ball and chill briefly for easier handling.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Pinch off pieces to roll into 1-inch balls.  Roll the balls in sugar, or for a fancier cookie, in 1 slightly beaten egg white, then in 1 cup finely chopped nutmeats.

Place them on a lightly greased and flowered sheet.  Bake 5 minutes.  Depress the center of each cookie with a thimble or your thumb.  Continue baking until done about 8 minutes.  When cool, fill the pit with one of the following:

  • a bit of jelly or jam
  • a preserved strawberry
  • a candied cherry
  • a pecan half
  • a dab of icing.

3 thoughts on “Ode to a Thimble…how a little piece of plastic inspired me

  1. Sally,
    I love your writing. It made me think of the things my family has “left behind” after they died. Your thimble story had me recall the fond memories of those things and look at them in a totally different way! Thanks.

  2. Thanks for such a lovely evergreen story. Some things were meant for more than one purpose. And as we think outside the norm, we often come up with better uses than the original one. people are like that. We define ourselves narrowly by what we have always done, and thought was our “calling.” Sometimes our second redefining is more fulfilling than the first. ie I retired from professional speaking and stage performance, now I’m a novelist. Doesn’t pay as much, but I’m no longer defined by my paycheck 🙂 like your thimble,I’ve been redefined.

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