I’ll be home for Christmas. And Hanukkah. And New Year’s Eve. And probably Valentine’s Day, my birthday and Easter. And it is looking increasingly like the Fourth of July will again be spent in the back yard. Maybe I will splash out for a wading pool next summer.
Those of us who are lucky enough to have a good internet connection can keep in touch with loved ones this holiday season. I am attending a Zoom cocktail party next week, which is thrilling. I need to find an appropriate party hat and devise a distinctive holiday cocktail – though I will probably just fall back on my favorite French 75. Bubbly is always festive, and it is such a treat.
Zoom meetings have become de rigueur and possibly passé; we are a jaded lot nowadays, nothing impresses us anymore. I think of Zoom as a thrilling novelty that the Jetsons promised us our future lives would enjoy. No, I do not have a robot housemaid, or a flying car, but it does my heart good to see a college chum on screen. Once we learn to take turns, and stop talking over each other it is practically like old times. The quality of our drinks has improved – we aren’t drinking Paul Masson wine or Old Milwaukee any more. For which our livers thank us. It’s nice to think that out there in the darkness we still have our tribe.
One element of real life that Zoom calls lack is a sense of smell. Not that college years smelled wonderful – I can remember distinctly the acrid, greasy, onion-y smell of cheesesteak subs wafting in the dorm – a sure sign of a hangover cure being implemented. And those group bathrooms were rather odoriferous. And the Brussels sprouts in the dining hall! Perhaps college is not the best metaphor for comforting vestiges of the past. Though, not all Zoom calls are made to college chums. Some are to children, and siblings, and parents. And I associate the holidays with the smells of cooking and baking, and fresh, fragrant Christmas greens, and spices we keep in a pot boiling away all day long.
I baked some gingersnaps the other night. The act of baking was a vehicle to Christmases past. The essences of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg floated around the kitchen and made me feel connected to earlier times. It was good to work with my hands and make a bit of a mess. It has been such a crazy year, as we all continue to mutter every single day.
It has been a weird year. I’d like to go home. I’d like to be someplace cosy and reassuring. Where I can have a nice warm gingersnap, or some latkes by candlelight. And here we all still are. Take good care of each other. Bake some cookies. Grate some potatoes. Call someone just to say hello.
Let’s dive into the foods that celebrate Hanukkah, and the miracle of the Festival of Lights. Light your candles and remember how the lamp oil for one night became enough oil for eight nights. And then get ready for latkes.
I always thought this was my mother’s recipe for Gingersnaps, but I recently unearthed a ruled recipe card, scrawled in her handwriting, that clearly identifies it as my aunt’s recipe. Who knew? Here for your holiday enjoyment is Regina Foley Noto’s GINGERSNAP Recipe:
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sift together the dry ingredients above. This is crucial – follow the steps here.
Add the dry ingredients to:
3/4 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
Mix thoroughly. Roll mixture into small balls and then roll the balls in a bowl of granulated sugar. Flatten the balls onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets with a small glass. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks. They are quite delicious with a nice cold glass of milk.
Our friends at Food52 have more imagination – and I trust a larger budget than I do. I get by with a small saucepan, filled with water, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. It is aromatic and seasonal. They are fancier: https://food52.com/blog/14741-what-to-simmer-for-a-fresh-seasonal-smelling-home
“To each other, we were as normal and nice as the smell of bread. We were just a family. In a family even exaggerations make perfect sense. “