Today, I Smell Gingerbread…a Holiday Story

Bread

It’s not just the calendar that puts celebrators in the Christmas and Hannuka spirit. It’s a host of sights and sounds that makes these holidays special: the change to wintry weather; the hustle n’ bustle of gift shoppers; colorful decorations and lights illuminating neighborhoods, windows and shops; the gaiety of passersby offering holiday wishes; quiet moments spent in reflection and prayer. All help create a festive mood.

One of my favorites is the aroma of freshly baked desserts and treats filling our home and signaling the start of this special season. Yesterday, it was almond crescent cookies. The day before, I sniffed roasted walnuts and candied bark, white chocolate with craisins. Tomorrow will bring something new that tickles my senses and rewards my taste buds. But, today, I smell gingerbread.

What a pleasure to be awakened on a brisk winter morning with the smell of ‘just from the oven’ cranberry bread or molasses cookies wafting down the hall and finding me stubbornly stirring beneath the cover of a cozy quilt. My wife, an early riser, is eagerly preparing delicate desserts to be shared with friends and enjoyed with our meals. Yes, I know, I’m spoiled.

Walnuts

Later, the chilly air on a new December day welcomes those escaping kitchen aromas that intoxicate me with spices and sugars, as I finish some outside chores. My work can wait, I decide, and hurriedly make my way inside for some hot coffee and a sampling of today’s treats. Ahhh, I smell gingerbread.

These holidays have a ‘baking season’ like no other, where the kitchen is the arena and the clashing of the cookie sheets, muffin tins, bread pans and mixing bowls tells us that it’s ‘game on’, while the cook builds up to the highly anticipated call, ‘Bon Appetit’. It’s a race to blend, stir, beat and mix ahead of the beginning of the Hannukah and Christmas Day deadlines. The desserts and special dinners seemingly roll out of the kitchen and onto the dining table in a tsunami of meats and greens, biscuits and breads, truffles and spritz.Dishes

When the calendar turns to January, the cooking slows, the menus change, and the emphasis is on dietary needs to help our bodies recover and prepare for spring. Is that possible? Yet, through the dark, cold winter months, I still yearn for the smell of gingerbread.

Pumpkin Pie

Spring rains roll into summer heat, and a warm kitchen loses its appeal. Quite unnoticed, the oven begins a period of involuntary hibernation. Delicacies are not a priority and a cold beer on a hot day will suffice. But nature is a wonderful thing. In a matter of time, the baking season will return in all its glory, and, once more, I will savor the smell of gingerbread in our home…

srbottch (11/23/2015)

Dedicated to my wife, who keeps our shelves filled with wonderful desserts during the Christmas holiday, and to cooks in their kitchens, everywhere.

Welcome Fall…

Front Porch

“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house.
So, I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne, American poet

What wonderful words to welcome the new Fall season. Today, I did just that, welcomed it, in all its glory; clear skies, early morning dew and a crispness in the air that snaps your lungs to attention.

Earlier this week, our house prepared for the change, as well. The air conditioner was retired, window screens removed, the furnace inspected, and most importantly, the oven reported for duty.

Welcome, Fall!

The much appreciated and long-awaited aromas of baked goods returned with scents of apples, cranberries and pumpkins for cakes, breads and muffins. Spices aroused my sensory receptors like perfume on a delicate nape. My salivary glands stirred from their summer sleep, anticipating the coming feasts. Surely, a measure of discipline will be required to maintain my belt size.

Maples and oaks will treat us to their final burst of fiery red, bright yellow and sparkling orange before laying bare their limbs to the certainty of winter. Blankets of grass will succumb to frosts and begin their seasonal dormancy, a relief to my tired lawnmower.

Welcome, Fall!

Hiking trails will become colorful murals and deer will be forewarned of intruders in their woods by the crunching of dried leaves underfoot.

Local farms will welcome us into their orchards for apple picking and cider tasting. We’ll sample the delicious fruit as we pick from trees, filling our bags with the sweet and tart varieties, intent on eating our daily quota to ‘keep the doctor away’.

Small town farmers markets become destinations for fun excursions. Families will mix and greet amid just picked greens, ripe tomatoes, a plethora of squashes and apples, fresh-baked pies and fall plants, while everyone’s favorite, the pumpkins with their long, twisty stems, wait to be carved and decorated with scary Halloween faces.

Fall, the season to lay gardens to rest and prepare their beds for the harsh winter. And, as Hawthorne opined, we will enjoy the Autumn sunshine with walks in the woods, shopping at outdoor art festivals, or raking leaves. We will breathe the crisp air and succumb to the beauty of the season…at least until kickoff, because, alas, Fall is football season.

Yes, welcome, Fall!

Pumpkins

(photos by Dick Moss)