Sunday, December 20, 2009
A little taste of Christmas
I was reading an email from my mom this afternoon, and as I skimmed through the lines mentioning her exhaustion after baking cookies all day with my sister, my mind flooded with memories of all the holiday traditions in my family. The "cookie baking extravaganza bonanza" is one of them, and it is an event that would make Martha Stewart bow down and hand over the golden spatula of domestic royalty to my culinarily gifted mom. Yes, I just created the word "culinarily," especially for this posting. In my parents house, there is a book shelf situated between the kitchen and dining room, and it is filled entirely with cookbooks, some of these being relics from kitchens past, as they have been handed down for grandmas and great-grandmas. In the pages of these dog-eared and grease stained collections there are recipes as well as words of love and wisdom from the hands that so carefully wrote out each measurement and instruction, and I swear they are more valuable to my mom than the house itself, right up there in sentimental value with the baby photos of my brother and sister and I. Each December she sorts carefully through these books for about two dozen favorite recipes, and then sets about preparing the pounds of butter, sugar, eggs, flour, spices and sprinkles that go into making the thousands of tiny masterpieces that come out of her oven after hours of labor. On cookie day, she enlists her army of cookie baking assistants (a different lineup every year) to shape, roll, press and decorate these little bites of Christmas as she whips up a little magic with the mix-master, and mans the oven-mitts, ensuring that each tray is baked to golden perfection. These cookies have distinct personalities every year, depending on the skill and creativity of the helpers, and they are gobbled up happily by holiday visitors regardless of any minor imperfections. Having to miss this testament to the powers of a woman with a whisk makes me a little heavy-hearted, but the comforting thing is that no matter how many years I am away from home for the holidays, when I do come back, I know it will still be happening. Watching "Love Actually" has become a little tradition of mine the last few years, since I have been missing holidays, and I every time I see it I am left a little teary watching the all the story lines wrap up in happiness, and the heartwarming scenes at the arrivals gate in Heathrow Airport. Love is Actually all around us, yes indeed, point taken. But here's the thing: it doesn't come close to the feeling of tying on a ridiculous snowflake apron and working elbow to elbow with my sister at the table, decorating shortbread and comparing sprinkle stains on our fingers.