What’s your favorite Christmas treat? Close your eyes and think of it _ one taste that says to you, “Merry Christmas!”
Gingerbread? Eggnog? Sugar cookies? I bet it’s not fruitcake. I’d love to hear your answer.
Treats in my childhood were simple. My mother’s peach cobbler was a feast, the best you ever put in your mouth. Her mother made banana pudding for Sunday dinners. And my dad’s mother, a farm wife, who cooked three meals on a wood stove most every day of her life, seldom saw the need for sweets.
But when I came to visit, she would make my favorite dessert: Homemade biscuits left over from breakfast, split in half, slathered with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, drizzled with cream and heated to bubbling in the warmer on the stove. Oh my.
Sorry. I tend to go on a bit when I start talking about food.
All those tastes speak of love, but they don’t say “Christmas.” For that, I need a tangerine.
The year my stepfather was out of work with a broken ankle, he limped home Christmas Eve with a box of tangerines, put it under the tree and said, “Merry Christmas.”
That was our only gift, except for a canned ham from some people at church.
Even now after all these years, one taste of a tangerine brings to mind my mother’s words as she fried up a few slices of what my stepfather called _ and refused to eat _ charity.
“Life,” she said, “is a bank. Sometimes you put into it. Other times you take out. But you need to remember how hard it is to take, because one day, you will do the giving.”
Why do I prefer tangerines to ham? The ham was a gift from good people who meant well. Their kindness was a blessing.
But the tangerines were a gift from someone who would have given us the world, if he could, but had nothing else to offer.
Which gift would you prefer? I thought so. Me, too.
My husband loves snickerdoodles. He loves them anytime, day or night, but especially around Christmas. He also loves the chocolate crinkles his mother, rest her soul, used to make for him.
I have tried both recipes with mixed success. But I am far better at snickers than at crinkles. And as it turns out, my husband prefers them. Or so he says. And so do I.
Every Christmas in our almost 12 years of marriage, I’ve baked a batch of snickerdoodles just for him.
OK, I eat them, too. But mostly, they are for him.
Today _ after my recent surgery to repair a broken ankle _ my husband decided to make the snickerdoodles himself.
I’ll say this. He’s a great cook. We usually share meal prep, or did until I broke my ankle. I often prefer his cooking to mine, especially if I don’t have to clean up the mess. For all his culinary expertise, his baking experience has been somewhat limited to microwaving a pizza. But he was not about to let that stop him.
“You’ll need the mixer,” I said.
He raised his eyebrows.
I pointed to the cupboard. “It’s got beaters and a power cord.”
He held up a block of butter. “How much is half a cup?”
“Half a cup,” I said.
“The labels are worn off the measuring spoons. How do you know which one’s a teaspoon?”
“I’m smart,” I said. “I just guess. Try the middle one.”
Then I watched, laughing through a cloud of flour dust, as a man who would give me the world, if he could, baked up a fine batch of snickerdoodles.
I wish you could taste them.
The kitchen, of course, is a disaster. No matter. Cookies are like companions. Even the best ones tend to leave a few crumbs.
Tomorrow, he says, he’ll go shopping for tangerines.
Maybe next Christmas I’ll make chocolate crinkles.
From our kitchen to yours, here’s wishing you your favorite taste of Christmas, shared with someone who is your world.