Week Fifty: Bake ALL the things!

Twenty years ago (and how it pains me to type those words — how can it be that far back in time?), I was so deep into baking special things for the holiday season that it became normal to line a five-gallon popcorn tin with a trash bag, fill it with unbleached white flour, and almost run out of it by the time Christmas was over. (I learned the popcorn-tin trick from my very Italian then-mother-in-law.) Oh, the cookies I made…. triple ginger cookies, chocolate chip cookies with cashew pieces, snickerdoodles, peanut butter cookies, mint chip cookies, pizzelles in four or five flavors….

Not my cookies.

Not my cookies.

Since then, my holiday baking schedule slowly tapered off over the years. Without a big family to bake for, or invitations to contribute to the family festivities, I fell into baking only what I wanted to eat. One of the results is that I didn’t stretch myself as a baker, and I came to rely on about three recipes for all my baked goods. I wonder if the kids think that I just don’t know how to make anything else.

Lately I’ve been trying to try new things. And one of those new things has been to make again the things I used to make, and hoist myself by my own bootstraps out of my culinary rut.

But I justnow realized that everything I’m planning to bake this year has ginger in it. I spent yesterday evening baking five dozen gingersnaps; I have a box of gluten-free store-bought gingersnaps on my kitchen table awaiting their conversion to crumb crust for a New York cheesecake for one of next week’s potlucks; I’m blowing the dust off the ol’ three-ginger cookie recipe and I’ve already bought my crystallized ginger from Penzeys. What IS it with the ginger, already? And while I was wondering what it WAS with the ginger already, my mind leaped ahead and imagined stir-fry beef marinating with soy sauce and slices of fresh ginger, eventually combined with onions and broccoli and topped with a ginger-sesame glaze. What IS it with the ginger, indeed!

I forgot the Laurel’s Kitchen recipe for real gingerbread, maybe with a lemon glaze…. I simply HAVE to make that this year….

ANYway, the whole house is going to smell like ginger before I’m finished. Curiously (perhaps), I have no desire to bake and construct gingerbread houses. I’m not sure whether it’s because I don’t want to take apart and eat something I spent so much time on, or that I don’t want to spend all that time on doing only one thing rather than doing a whole bunch of things. (If you’re planning to do a gingerbread house this year, carry on! I’m neither disdainful nor jealous. I wish you well. Show me the progress shots, please.)

lifesize_gingerbreadhouse

Step 205….

Two years ago, for various emotional reasons, I cooked a Christmas goose. At first I thought that was an entirely different kitchen story, but perhaps it isn’t. Baking and cooking at the holidays (whatever holidays you have) are so much about sharing, comfort, memories, togetherness, and emotion. Two years ago at Christmas I was in shock from an incomparable loss. One year ago I was in a dynamic transition. This year I feel as if I’m peering outside, feeling safer, and wanting to bake the things that remind me of when I was loved and happy, so those feelings can continue.

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Published in: on December 12, 2013 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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