As I was cruising the web yesterday, I came across this entry in the blog A Day In the Fat Life about what sort of baking she’s doing for Christmas. Reading it, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. You see, for me the holidays always mean baking.
From as far back as I can remember, Christmas happened to involve gifts and music and a big Douglas Fir tree covered in a joyful cacophony of ornaments. Yes, there were a lot of gifts and I was eager to learn what was in each package. Yes, my parents collected Christmas music and there were carols I wouldn’t hear anywhere else as well as artists nobody else seemed to have heard of. Yes, our entire family history was on that tree…or at least dating back to when Mom and Dad were kids. All of these things were great and meant a lot to me, and they still do. But most of all, Christmas was about baking.
It was generally the end of September or the beginning of October when Dad started up the ‘cookie factory.’ He was the primary baker in the family, though Mom did love to bake bread. For the final quater of the year, though, Mom could barely get into the kitchen to make dinner on the weekends, because Dad was baking cookies and fruitcakes almost non-stop.
So many cookies! My brothers and I would beg to be allowed to taste test batch after batch of springerle and liebkuchen and orange shortbread stars and lemon butter daisies and chocolate almond shells…and dozens more. Once a week after he baked them, the fruitcakes would come down from the shelf where they’d been marinating for another infusion of brandy. Dad’s old cat, Hugh, even knew that when the words ‘quality control’ were spoken it meant there was a butter wrapper he could lick clean.
For years I thought everyone had a second freezer in their garage for Christmas goodies. Imagine my surprise when I learned that wasn’t the case!
It’s now been a few years since the cookie factory shut down for good with my father’s death. I still miss it. But when the first snap of cold hits the air and children are deciding what to wear for Halloween, I always bake a couple batches of the one cookie Dad never made: chocolate chip.
And then it’s time to start contemplating what flavor of pie or cake to bake for Christmas day.