To represent the 12 Days of Christmas (which start the day after Christmas but I’m doing it earlier so you can give these as Christmas gifts), I’m showcasing 12 days of delicious artisanal food treats from the American South. These are hand-picked by me, Dina, because I’ve tried them and they are delicious.
Day 8, Savannah, Georgia: Byrd’s benne wafers
When I first heard of benne wafers, I didn’t know what they were. When I found out they were sesame cookies, I wanted to try them. Italians also make sesame cookies during the holidays (and other times), and I love them.
The history of the benne wafer is that sesame seeds were brought from East Africa to the United States by African slaves. Benne is a Bantu word for sesame, and the cookies symbolize good luck. They are an old-time Southern tradition and also are served for Kwanzaa.
Byrd’s is a family company that has been baking cookies for 91 years. This year, its benne wafers are available in a replica of the original tin used more than 50 years ago. The cookies are the delightfully small size of coins and have a sweet chewy crunch.