I call this time of year, Butter Season
Shortly after Thanksgiving, I start to bake. I love to make gingerbread men and snowflakes, decorated with white icing and glittery sugar. This year I added bar cookies to my repertoire. Almond bars, apricot almond bars, apricot butter cookies, Hello Dolly bars, chocolate chip cookies, crescents, raspberry rhubarb pie with and for my 11 year old son, and blueberry pie as requested by my husband.. Today my niece will come and help me decorate her favorite nutmeg sugar cookies. They are all made with love and all made with butter.
I become very melancholy over the holidays every year. I’m from a small town in Iowa, where friends and family were my rocks. I can still picture my grandma in her big red chair. She’d talk about her Aunt Mae’s pies with a faraway look in her eyes. I remember blackberry pie was one of her favorites. She lived to be nearly 105 years old, but she never forgot those pastries.
My mother always bakes crescent cookies, spritz, peanut butter -Hershey kiss cookies and when she feels really ambitious, her mother’s candy bar cookies. When we were young, she squirreled them all away to the freezer to serve on Christmas Eve. I remember feeling distraught one year when Dad ate the last crescent cookie.
Now, I live in New Orleans, 1000 miles away from my roots. I have lived many places and always experience loss this time of year. I feel sad that I don’t hear from friends or coworkers I used to be close to. I feel lonely and estranged. I want to pick up the phone and talk to everyone I’ve ever known and loved, dead or alive. My husband and son give me lots of hugs during this spell because it is inevitable. I will have it.
Yesterday was particularly difficult. Personally, I think it was the full moon in Cancer. I felt the melancholy wrap itself around me while I baked blueberry pie and looked at endless recipes. I threw myself into baking to avoid the sadness, but it stayed despite my attempts. It always morphs into existential angst. My sister came to see me at the end of the day, and I told her how I felt. I wanted to have a belief for this essay and couldn’t scrounge one up. I gave her a sample of the pie I baked that day and three types of cookies. She gave me a huge hug and said,” I know what you believe.”
As I pondered that statement, we talked a little more about the powerful nurturing pull of good food, the life long memories it instills and the comfort and joy it provides.
Like painting or dancing or writing, baking provides a vehicle of expression for the baker. I believe as long as you use real butter, the outcome is always divine.