Trying to decide what I’m going to make for Christmas morning every year is a lot like trying to decide how I’m going to cook my turkey. In both cases, I have no tradition, no surety about the way it has to be. On the night before Thanksgiving, I’m still holding a box of salt in my hand, trying to decide whether to wet brine or dry brine or screw the brine and maybe rig up some sort of dangerous contraption in the backyard to deep fry it and set the woods on fire. In the same way, I scour cookbooks and blogs and the words of anyone who wants to share when it comes to what to make on Christmas morning. I search through my books as if we’ve never had Christmas before. I start out new, and I look for that dish that will call out to me in four-part perfect caroling harmony. I usually find it, and then I begin again the next year. Continue reading
When I was five, I celebrated Christmas with my friend, Phoebe, and her family. My mother must have had to work that night, and, being a Jew who didn’t quite jump for holidays anyway, she didn’t have too much stake in it. But even then, I was so fascinated by Christmas as it seemed it should be. My memory of their house is only tiny lights and lots of evergreen, and, being small, I experienced every room as huge and warm and full of so much. There were candles and gingerbread and mountains of presents, and I was at once happy to be there and so overcome with want that it would magically become part of my life, and that all the warmth, sweet smells, and promise of presents would be mine, too, year after year. In the morning we had hot chocolate, and there was a present for me under the tree. I unwrapped it slowly, making it last as long as three or four of Phoebe’s presents, and under the paper, a box held a tiny blue bag that held a book the size of my small hand. It was The Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown, and the cover was made of soft, grey fur. Thirty years later, I still have it. Continue reading
For today’s First of the Month, in honor of cookies, family, and all the complexity of December, I wanted talk holiday recipes. I originally wrote this for a wonderful and now sadly extinct site called GiltTaste, and as the piece is homeless, I brought it back to the blog to live here, along with my grandmother’s rugelach, the official holiday cookie of my kitchen. So for today’s conversation, I’d love to hear your favorite holiday recipes and the stories that might come along with them.
A baker never has to die, not really.
Last week, a woman stopped me on the street to tell me she had recently unearthed her copy of my grandmother’s recipe for rugelach. She took my hands and pulled me closer as she described it in detail: the numbered steps, the loopy script of my grandmother’s note in the corner, the stains on the page. There are probably a few hundred copies of it out there, each with its own hand-written note. It’s a special recipe that gets that sort of circulation. But when my grandmother was alive? I refused to find out how good it really was. Continue reading
It’s not my way to be evangelical about any one recipe, method, or food. I hope you’ll never catch me telling you that you should do this, or that, or eat this. If you do, you have my full permission to remind me that it’s not my way. BUT, I will say this gently, and with love:
Do you want to make your own pie crust? Or if you already do, are you only somewhat happy with the result? Do you hold your breath through the process of adding ice water, wondering if that final drop will damn the whole thing? And, most importantly, do you have a stand mixer? Continue reading
This weekend, I’ll plant the garlic, and then I’m done.
The garden and I are no good for each other. We come together with the best of intentions, the garden and I, always thinking it will be different, thinking we have finally changed each other. I hum to myself as I kneel in the straw. I am wide-eyed and optimistic, and I know that if only I work harder I’ll make it what I know it can be. The un-edged rows, weedy beds, and poorly scheduled plantings will someday transform into this, this, and especially this! If only I were better, purer, more patient, more committed!
In the end, Joey comes out after dark to drag me back inside. He finds me crouched in the sowthistle, scraped, dirty, simultaneously cursing and enchanted, having done nothing I set out to do, but only other things I didn’t even plan for. Even those tasks are half-completed, but it’s dark and cold, and the garden has spit me out again. Till next time, my love. You know I’ll be back.
And what do I have to show for it? Some bolted broccoli raab and four million Jerusalem artichokes. Continue reading