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Elizabeth Cook: Lights, cameras, cookie dough

It’s a wonder we’re all still alive.

The Food and Drug Administration says raw flour can contain dangerous bacteria like E.coli and make people who eat it very ill. Fortunately, high temperature kills the bacteria, so baked goods are safe.

Raw cookie dough is off limits, however.

We were supposed to stop eating cake batter and cookie dough years ago because of the Salmonella threat present in uncooked eggs. When personal experience contradicts FDA pronouncements, though, it’s hard to take food warnings seriously.

Surely I wasn’t the only kid who hung around while Mom was making a cake, waiting to lick batter off the beaters and bowl. No tummy aches followed. And the batter tasted better than the cake.

The contrast between raw and baked even greater when it comes to cookie dough. Chocolate chip cookies are great. Chocolate chip cookie dough is … well, now we know it could be very bad for you. We’re not supposed to eat the delicious dough. But I’ve eaten more than my share of that, too, without problem.

With cookie-baking season kicking into high gear for Christmas, many a home baker probably will conveniently forget the FDA’s flour warning.

Speaking of indulgences, have you watched any Hallmark Christmas movies this year?

We scoff at this sentimental brain candy, wrapped in faux garland and tied up with bunches of bows. The central theme is a romance brewing between two attractive young people  who start out as strangers, opposites or rivals, only to realize they actually have a lot in common — true love. And Christmas.

Cue the angels’ harps.

Some movies start out in a big city, but love always blossoms in a quaint, Christmas-loving town.

We scoff. And we watch.

The pattern is clear to anyone who has seen a few of the movies, and the Wall Street Journal recently confirmed the formula.

“In addition to a feel-good finale, there’s an atmospheric checklist for every movie,” a Journal story reported in early November. “‘Buying a Christmas tree. Wrapping gifts. Thinking of gifts. Baking and cooking meals. Family gatherings. All of the things that you think of as traditional,’ says Randy Pope, senior vice president of programming.”

The setting is always a quaint small town. And snow is a must. There may never be a Hawaiian Hallmark Christmas — unless it features a freak snow.

Still, the nearly “Groundhog Day” sameness has me trying to think up a different plot for Hallmark. Is it impossible for someone to have a happy and romantic Christmas in a big city? Could a young woman who is fed up with small town gossip and limited job opportunities find fulfillment in a metro area?

Not on Hallmark.

Still, a month each year for Christmas music and holiday-themed movies is a nice break from reality. We’re happy when the Christmas season begins and not too sorry to see it end.

Spirited debate surfaced in the newsroom last week about favorite Christmas movies. On our list:

• “It’s a Wonderful Life” has to be the ultimate.

• “A Christmas Carol” (several versions), with  “The Muppet Christmas Carol” leading the pack, believe it or not.

• “Elf.”

• “Miracle on 34th Street”

• “Love, Actually”

• “A Christmas Story”

If you have a favorite to recommend, please send it along

And please let us know of particularly festive or large Christmas light displays you see around the county.

Reporter Rebecca Rider, our own “Electric Elf,” is putting together a list that will be published around Dec. 18, so you can pile the kids in the car, cruise the county and see the sights, maybe with some hot chocolate and cookies — but not cookie dough.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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