WND – Bah Humbug

December 3, 2009

I didn’t complain (much) about the appearance of the Christmas candy on the day after Halloween. I held my peace when the Christmas lights went up in Harvard Square in the middle of November. I refrained from anything more opprobrious than rolling my eyes at the delivery of Christmas trees to Wilson Farms the weekend before Thanksgiving. I gritted my teeth when the Christmas carols on store music systems started well before November drew to a close. However, since last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent and I actually went to an Advent concert I should probably stop grousing, even if it’s only to myself, and start thinking seriously about Christmas.

Here’s the thing though. I complain all the way through November about the over commercialization of Christmas, and how it starts earlier and earlier every year, but then all of a sudden it’s December and there are no free weekends left between now and Christmas, and how does this happen to me every year?

I always have vague plans in October to do a Christmas party – make gingerbread houses (or just one giant gingerbread mansion – we did Manderley (pre-fire) a couple of years ago, and we were contemplating building Thornfield – just starting to smolder at the edges with poor crazy Bertha Mason cackling maniacally on the roof – this year), or having a Christmas open house with cookies and cider. But despite the fact that November lasts forever December always sneaks up on me and I run out of time to do anything more than buy a Christmas tree and put out my crèche (next weekend).

I think I’ve done the full Christmas cake/Christmas cookie extravaganza exactly twice. For one thing, I know my mother’s doing it so it’s not like I’m going to be deprived of the traditional Christmas bounty if I don’t get around to baking myself. For another thing, doing the Hermit’s Cake, gingerbread men, Moravian sugar cookies, nut balls, and forgotten cookies kills five consecutive weekends and I occasionally like to pretend that I have a life that doesn’t revolve around the kitchen.

You have start with the Hermit’s Cake on Thanksgiving weekend (or the weekend before if you want to be able to serve it before Christmas) so that it has time to marinate in bourbon soaked clothes for several weeks before you slice into it. This is the one that I’m most tempted to do every year because everyone says they hate fruit cake, and I maintain that it’s just because they’ve never had good fruit cake. Then each subsequent weekend you make another batch of several dozen cookies. For the gingerbread and the Moravian sugar cookies you make the dough on Saturday and then roll out and bake on Sunday. The nutballs can be made in an afternoon, and assuming you don’t have a gas stove you can leave the forgotten cookies to dry out in a warm oven overnight – if you do have a gas stove it’s an afternoon of turning the heat on for a few minutes and then off for an hour until the meringues dry out.

Then sometime before Christmas you have an open house with cookies and cider and send everyone home with plates of cookies. You take another plate up to the upstairs neighbors and a plate to the office, and if you still have cookies left (which you probably do) you start foisting them off on everyone who walks through your door. And it’s a little exhausting, rewarding but exhausting and while I always have grand plans I falter on the execution.

This year I’m assuaging my holiday baking urge by making gingersnaps to serve with hot cider at the ‘omg please take these books out of my house’ free-for-all we’re having next weekend to try and get rid of some (most?) of the stacks and stacks of manga that my roommate receives from publishers. I contemplated buying cookies and realized that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it even for people I probably don’t know and will never see again (possibly even particularly because I don’t know them – what would they think of me if this is their only impression?). I can feel my mother looking dubious and like she doesn’t know where she’s gone wrong across several thousand miles of ocean for even thinking about serving store-bought cookies. I don’t even want to know what this says about me. I’m still looking for a recipe though, so if anyone has any must make gingersnap/molasses/spice cookie recipes . . . .

Beef Carbonnade
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans

Beef Carbonnade

Recipe previously given: Birthday Stew

Mashed Potatoes
Can you make too many mashed potatoes? I mean, I never seem to manage to have any left over, no matter how many pounds of potatoes I cook. So I’m asking, is it actually possible to achieve leftover mashed potatoes?

Green Beans
You know what I don’t get? On cooking shows they always trim green beans by stacking them together and slicing off the ends with a knife. It’s not that I don’t understand why this is faster, I just don’t know where they’re buying green beans that are all the same length.



  1. I have a good molasses cookie recipe. They’re soft cookies, not crispy, just so you know what you’re getting. They freeze well both baked and unbaked. Just add a couple of minutes to the baking time if they’re frozen.

    Molasses Cookies

    12 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup molasses
    1 egg
    1 3/4 cup flour
    1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda

    1. Preheat oven to 350F.
    2. Melt butter, add sugar and molasses- mix thoroughly.
    3. Lightly beat egg and add to butter mixture- blend well.
    4. Sift flour with spices, salt, and baking soda- add to first mixture and mix.
    5. Lay a sheet of foil on a cookies sheet- drop tablespoons of batter on to foil leaving 3 inches between cookies.
    6. Bake 8-10 minutes (until cookies start to darken). Remove from oven while still soft- let cool on foil.

    • I’m sold. How many does it make?

      • 24.

  2. I’d beg you to wait until I got there to have the manga free-for-all, except that I have piles and piles of my own manga of which I need to be rid. Sigh.

  3. This year the Hermit’s cake was made in October and left soaking before the winter migration! Just so you know it is there waiting. It was a bit over cooked and dry so I am hoping the extra soaking time will moisten it.

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