Stella Olsen Cookie Party at The Wooden Spoon

The home of The Wooden Spoon, a Scandinavian shop at 1617 K Avenue, was built by Joseph Forman in 1867. That sounds old, but it’s not nearly as historic as Christmas cookie traditions that have been passed on for generations and are still celebrated each year at The Wooden Spoon.

Owner Gwen Workman, will continue the annual tradition of hosting the Stella Olson Cookie Party Saturday, Dec. 9, from 1-5 p.m. at her Scandinavian shop. “I want people to know the joy of cookies,” she exclaimed.

Making traditional Scandinavian treats at the Stella Olsen Cookie Party at The Wooden Spoon // photos Jennifer Shertzer

Gwen said Scandinavians love cookies, and under the instruction of her Norwegian mother, she learned to make different variations of Scandinavian cookies such as sunbakkels, fattigman, datre-filled, berlinerkranser, sugar, spritz, pepperkaker, hermits and krumkaker. It is common for a Scandinavian hostess to serve seven kinds of cookies to guests during the Christmas holidays.

After moving with her husband in 1985 from a Scandinavian community in Minnesota to Texas, Gwen met Stella Olson at the Norwegian Society of Texas Christmas Party. That encounter lead to the current Christmas cookie event each year at The Wooden Spoon.

Stella annually hosted a cookie party for her friends, neighbors and church acquaintances, but was unable to host it one year due to renovations being done on her residence. That’s when Gwen offered The Wooden Spoon to Stella for her cookie party.

At that time, Stella continued to make cookies for everyone, paying for the expenses out of her own pocket. One would think Stella was a native of Norway, considering her loyalty to the Norwegian Society of Texas, but her only connection was her relatives who lived in there. In fact, Stella had never even been to the Scandinavian country. To help repay Stella for all her contributions over the years, a fundraiser was organized, the ticket was purchased and Stella, who was then 85 years old, was sent on her first trip to Norway.

“If you just said the word ‘Norway’,” Gwen added, “Stella was a pile of mush. She loved the trip.”

After Stella’s death, Gwen has continued the party each year. Gwen had told Stella that as long as Gwen had anything to say about it, there will always be a Stella Olson Cookie Party. “The party is a day of fellowship and sugar. Please don’t think of it as just a cookie exchange,” she said.

The public is invited to attend, and attendees should bring a tray of cookies with a cultural flair and stories about them to share with others at the party. Gwen and several others also demonstrate the making of fresh Scandinavian treats during the party.

For those seeking good luck, this could be the perfect occasion to experience a Scandinavian tradition. A person takes a Swedish gingersnap, places the cookie in one hand and makes a wish. With the index finger on the opposite hand, tap the cookie hard enough to break it. If it breaks into three pieces, the wish will come true. But if not – just eat the cookie.

Gwen enjoys opening up her shop to those of Scandinavian descent and to any who want to learn more about the culture. It gives those homesick a sense of Scandinavia right here in Plano. “When people leave here, they had a great experience,” Gwen continued. “There have been a lot of tears here even when they come for a moment.”

Gwen Workman at her shop, The Wooden Spoon

Gwen, who grew up living among Scandinavians in Minnesota, learned to work hard. “We were poor and didn’t know it, but we knew how to work hard,” she said.

That hard work continues to this day as Gwen Workman hosts the Stella Olson Cookie Party each year. “I feel so proud,” she added, “to have my cookie ministry.”

The Wooden Spoon >
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1 Comment

  • Rick this is a great article! I am sure you are named after the family the elementary school is name for. I love articles like this. And Gwen Workman is a very nice lady! I am glad you interviewed her, I know people from an hour away (that I knew long ago), that also come to visit her. I will share your story with Danish and Scandanavian friends.
    Thank you again

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