Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Twelve Days of Christmas.. Spruce Style

On the first day of Christmas, the postman brought to me...
A 4# wheel of Baby Swiss Cheese....
On the second day of Christmas, my true love brought to me..
Two slabs of ribs
and a 4# wheel of Baby Swiss Cheese....
On the third day of Christmas, the FFA sent to me...
Three bricks of Cheddar
Two slabs of ribs, 
and a 4# wheel of Baby Swiss Cheese.
On the fourth day of Christmas, Chriscakes threw at me...
Four flying flapjacks...
Three chunks of cheddar,
Two slabs of ribs
 and a 4# wheel of Baby Swiss Cheese
On the fifth day of Christmas, the UPS man saved for me, 
Five wines from Napa...
Four flying flapjacks,
Three chunks of cheddar,

Two slabs from Jack Stack,
..and a 4# wheel of Baby Swiss Cheese...

I'm not going to carry this parody to its logical conclusion.  But...let there be no doubt that I could! Experimentation and tradition summed year by year yield a food pyramid of ever increasing height and girth, the limiting resource being that of time.  There are only so many days on the holiday calendar and one must needs spend one's time in pursuits other than cooking...or eating.  

Forget the sparkle of jewelry...forget red bows on luxury cars...even forget i-thises and android-thats...the most personal gift one can give is food, and whether it be homemade or handcrafted, a luxurious treat from afar, or the essence of a favorite memory, like Proust's madeleines, it is the one present that can be tailored expressly for the giftee from the gifter.

Tradition.  Tradition is the ribbon tying Christmas pasts to Christmas presents.  Tradition leads me to stock up on butter and powdered sugar for the frosted sugar cookies we will decorate after the children are out for Christmas vacation ; some of the cookies will be Christmas stars...and flowers...and moons...cut with the soft tin cookie cutters my mother used and then passed along for generations of cookie sprinklers to come.  Cookie day is a tradition eagerly awaited as much for the general gaiety and camaraderie as for the resulting sugar high.  For the sixth day of Christmas, let's sing about children a-frosting... 

I'm not a fancy baker, but what I bake, I bake often.  The winter apples in storage are still firm though beginning to wrinkle.  Vast heaps of peels fill the sink and chopped apples become loaves, each batch a pyramid unto itself: four cups of apples, three cups of flour, 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of oil. The loaves used to line up two by two like animals in the ark...Sunday school teachers, school teachers, mailman, busdriver, choir director, neighbors, open houses.... a dozen or two stacked like bricks for a Farm Bureau hospitality room.  I can't see the bottom of the fruit crisper yet, but I will before New Year's.  Every day of our holiday song will find apple loaves a'baking.
So much sweetness, so much nostalgia, so much candy wrapped up in our Christmas.  Way back when, Santa Claus would leave Laura and me a bag of Russell Stover candy straws in our stockings every year at Grandma and Grandpa Froerer's on Greenberry Road.  Orange, yellow, green, and pink...the pink cinnamon sticks were carefully rationed and savored. Alas, Honeysuckle Straws are extinct..not even an image available on Google! At Granny's, homemade candies: sticky divinity, peanut brittle, cubes of butterscotch and chocolate fudge waited to be picked over with molasses cookies and lebkuchen. Alas! My sporadic efforts at candy making result in pans abandoned in the snow, contents fused to the steel and glass. Instead the candy dish on the dining table sparkles with shiny Snickers and peppermint puffs, dark chocolate Treasures and York Peppermint Patties in holiday red and green. The candy dish was a present from Ann and Matt soon after we moved to this house. One way I fulfill my role as grandma is to make sure this candy dish reflects the bounty of the season, just in case Josh asks if he may have a piece of candy five minutes after he comes to our house.  
On this eighth day of Christmas there's a candy dish a 'shining.
 Trips to the airport and trips to Target; anniversary celebrations and last minute props for Christmas parties and programs; all that windshield time surely earns a stop at Starbucks.  What'll be today?  Gingerbread Latte'? Peppermint Mocha? A Spicy Flat White? Or hard core caffeine with a Cranberry Bliss bar on the side?  Just three more days to go...and I've got  12 stars! Make mine a Caramel Brulee' a steamin'. 

Christmas Eve day, one of my favorites of the year. We eagerly anticipate the joy of Christmas morning.  The lights of the tree, the lights of the town warm and brighten as the culmination of Advent looms.  I have three coffeecakes to prepare for Christmas morning: a dozen eggs, 5 sticks of oleo and 40 oz. of cream cheese. The dough for each cake must be kneaded and mixed by hand, chilled for two hours, then rolled and raised on the radiator in the kitchen before it is baked.  This hands on, hands in baking is perfect for the quiet reflection appropriate to Christmas Eve. Often, these cakes are what I bake last, after the last package is wrapped and the house is quieted....Three cakes a'bakin  and two mugs of eggnog on Christmas Eve.

On the last day of Christmas, the postman should bring me....
A Thank You from the 
Tarkio HyVee

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