Going Out In A Glaze of Glory
I've retraced my steps and checked the videotape. I figured it out. It was Sunday, December 10, around noon. Maybe a little earlier.
We were having our annual Christmas carol sing-a-long, which is what passes for a pageant in our case. We stuck around after worship, sang a bunch of carols, and ate a bunch of cookies. And there were a bunch.
I made some, others made more. Some were store-bought, but it was a community effort in terms of cookies. I figured out that we each had a limit of eight, so yeah. We had plenty.
for the win
I'm usually hungry at church, because by the time I'm ready for breakfast, I'm also heading out the door. For a few months, I managed to squirrel away some granola bars in a cupboard just for such an emergency, but these days I mostly wait for communion. We tend to dole out chunks of good bread during communion, and my stomach will occasionally stop grumbling long enough to hear the words of intinction. Occasionally.
So I was glad to see that cookie line-up, and I sampled more than a few, and that's when I tasted it.
A friend of mine works as an elementary school teacher, and moonlights sometimes in the catering business at a downtown hotel. From what I understand, she scored some extra cookies left over from a catered gig, so she brought those. They were gingerbread, although at first I just knew they were great.
I don't know from gingerbread. Mostly I think of gingersnaps, I think, crisp cookies with all the flavor of fresh cardboard. I got the Christmas connotation but I missed the memo, apparently, when it came to why such a thing exists. To build little houses, maybe.
But these opened my eyes. Soft and chewy, with some sort of glaze or icing that complemented the flavor and texture perfectly, they were amazing cookies. I wanted more. I wanted to learn the secret. I needed a gingerbread wizard.
But whatever. I had the internet.
My first batch was OK. I got the chewy part down, and cut the cookies out with a water glass and they looked like cookies. But the taste was old-school gingerbread, and it eventually felt as though I was chewing a mildly spicy sponge.
So I found a new recipe, with slightly different techniques, and I took my wife's advice and made little loaves, or bars. I used a standard cinnamon-roll glaze, powdered sugar and Karo and vanilla (would have used lemon zest normally, but no lemon on hand). They were spectacular. Not particularly pretty, but spectacular.
Ginger in style
This is why I fail at being a baker, by the way. I like the science of baking, the transformation that occurs in a 350-degree oven with a little baking powder and white flour, but my skill is at about the level of your conventional suburban dad with burgers on the grill. I can do the general stuff.
it's the artistry that I fail at, as I should. I can handle the drudgery of dough all right. I can knead and shape and proof and wait, mostly wait. I can wait for a long time, because I have a dull mind and a vivid imagination.
But I can't make it pretty, or surprising, or unique. I lack the design gene, whether picking fonts or icing a cake. I could probably bake a pretty decent cake, moist and tasty. It would probably look like this.
So these are never going to be perfect cookies, and in fact they might only be tasty to me (reports from the others in this household do not support this theory), but man. I do love baking something new and having it taste really, really good. And they don't look perfect, well, suck it, design snobs. They still end up in my belly.
Which was the whole point of this post. For someone who tends to be obsessive about food and weight (you think?), I'm actually remarkably stable. I tend to eat the same amounts and weigh the same these days, which is good but doesn't dissuade me from keeping a close eye on things.
I was also committed to truly appreciating the Christmas season this year. It's not been a great year. We could use a little Christmas. I sure could.
So I had Christmas music streaming constantly, I admired the lights in the neighborhood, and I had to learn to surrender to the goodness that is sugar in all its glory.
And it worked out fine. If some days all I ate were cookies, well. You say that like it's a bad thing.
Christmas calories turned out to be good ones, and it's not like I've put on any weight to speak of. I would certainly be speaking of it, which everybody probably knows all too well.
I just learned to appreciate the joy that comes from minor indulgences. and particularly those I bake myself. Christmas came and went, and eventually those cookies will disappear, but in the meantime I got some holiday cheer and my taste buds woke up, alive and well. And being alive is the whole point, actually.