Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday Baking (part 2 - by Margaret Ullrich)

Okay... So much for Paul. It wasn't his fault - American melting pot and all. Our son would grow up with ethnic kitch. He'd know what to say to a Lucia Queen.

The 80s was the decade of old time family shows and memoir books. Have you ever browsed through one? It could make one weep. Listen to this...

"Evenings when a cold blustery wind howled outside
were perfect for sorting through recipes. They were
cozy times. The children were sitting at the oak table
helping Mama chop fruit and raisins. Papa was cracking
and shelling nuts and crushing fresh spices in the grinder."

Isn't that sweet? It convinced me that if we did things just like people did before television was invented, the world would be a kinder, gentler place.

We'll never know. Paul told me, in no uncertain terms, that he was too busy to grind nuts for a cake he didn't even want. Alright. Scratch Paul grinding his nuts. I bought ground nuts.

Step two... the batter had to be mixed. Back to that memoir...

"When all the fruits were in, Grandmother called, 'Come,
stir the batter!'
We all took turns giving it a stir - clockwise for good luck -
and made a wish."

I called, "Come, stir the batter!"

Carl pointed to the mixer sitting on the counter and announced he was staying on the eighth level of his computer game The Temple of Ra. He also told me, in no uncertain terms, that he was too busy to stir batter for a cake he didn't even want.

I stirred the batter.

Don't ask what I wished.

It's been downhill ever since. Do you know about the charming Swedish custom of hiding a whole almond in the rice pudding? The lucky person who finds the almond has to get married or do the dishes. Both my husband and son managed to swallow the almond.

I tried the German version - whoever finds the almond receives a marzipan pig. By then Paul and Carl had their own tradition: swallowing the almond. I felt so guilty looking at that poor rejected pig. I started my own tradition and ate him... along with the cake.

There's a Christmas carol that goes: "Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat..."

Well, the goose isn't the only one.

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