December 3, 2012

Fa-la-la-la, Let’s Eat Some Cookies

Not only is this the season for shopping and finding that perfect present, but it is also the season for baking. This interests me far more than any shopping ever could. If there were a Black Friday Baking event, I would wake up at four in the morning for that. Baking represents so much for me.

As a little girl, I would sit in the kitchen and watch my mom’s every step during the holiday season. Eventually, I started participating myself: adding an egg, beating some batter, folding pie crusts, even pressing cookies. Eventually, she even let me frost the cakes and cookies. And oh how I loved each and every activity! I didn’t particularly care for the treats as much as I loved the process, the actual baking. I came by that naturally.

My mother loved to bake; my grandmother loved to bake; my great-grandmother loved to bake. I come from a long line of women who love to bake. With each loving ingredient, my mother would create beautiful pies, tasty cakes, and scrumptious cookies. Some recipes came from her trusty Betty Crocker cookbook while others came from a box of secret family recipes. The whole thing seemed so special to me.

I love baking now because of these memories. Every single time, I gather ingredients for pies or cookies or cakes, immediately, my childhood memories of baking with my mother wash over me accompanied by a feeling of love. Sure, they are not the healthiest treats, but baked goods take some serious time and love to create. That alone makes them special.

Just this past weekend, I began my annual holiday baking. First recipe I baked…pecan pie. My mother never really made pecan pie when I was little. She was raised in Michigan, and pecan pie is definitely a southern dish. My mom baked pumpkin pie, key lime pie, cheese pie (also called ricotta pie or cheese cake), and, my personal favorite, lemon meringue pie. Once we moved to Oklahoma, though, she added pecan pie to her repertoire. Well, I added it to her repertoire.

That perhaps is the best part of baking to me—finding new recipes. Okay, so for many a pecan pie recipe is standard, nothing new. But to my family of Yankees, this divine pie was something different, something new. Every time I try a new recipe, I call up my mother and talk about it. Often, she starts to make it, too. And she does the same with me, telling me about her new recipes. Even when my creation is a total flop, I call her up and talk about it. Baking is a conversation between baker and ingredients as well as between mother and daughter. At least it is in my family. Nothing is more special than that.

Holiday baking is one tradition I will always look forward to. With all the bustle of holiday shopping, Christmas parties, gift exchanges, and Dirty Santa, I find solace in baking. The methodical steps for each tasty dessert relax my mind, calm my heart, and bring good memories to my soul. For just a few minutes I find myself not worrying about what gift to give to whom. I just find peace in the stir.

Image Credit: Brian Oliver Photography / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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