I’ve discovered that I’m not much good at blogging. The lack of a deadline, combined with the intangibility of an online post as opposed to an actual physical piece of print, is difficult for me to deal with, although I am trying to do better.
What I am good at is Christmas.
The planning, decorating, shopping (which starts January 2), and the baking.
Especially the baking. I roadtest recipes all year long on my more-than-willing lab assistants at home, and compile a huge, overly ambitious list . Prep work starts the first of November, when dough is tucked away in every available corner of the freezer. Then on Black Friday, while everyone else is out risking life and limb at the mall, I swath myself in a suitably festive apron from my collection of vintage kitchen wear, and start production.
Growing up on a small dairy farm in the 1950’s, we didn’t have much money to spend on gifts for friends and neighbors, but that didn’t mean they were neglected at Christmas. There was enough money for flour, sugar and spices, and we had plenty of butter, eggs and milk, so we baked.
Perhaps my first memories of Christmas are olefactory – the scent of sugar cookies, anise seed, cardamom, honey. When the cookies and fruitcake were done, we waited for a dry day, difficult to find in the winter, and my mother would make homemade divinity using an old-fashioned egg beater to whip the egg whites and syrup till the mixture was so stiff she couldn’t turn the handle and had to finish with a wooden spoon.
No one who mattered was forgotten, from the neighbors who helped with the harvesting in the summer to the elderly ones who didn’t bake for themselves any more due to illness or infirmity,
So, I give away most of what I bake each year – that is, what I can salvage after Jon gets his share of cookies and of coffee after hours of snow removal.
I do it for the pleasure of a warm kitchen, filled with the scents that remind me of holidays past –
I do it to honor the traditions of my mother, my grandmother, and all the farm women who gave gifts made by their own hands –
I do it for love.