Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tasty Nostalgia

I'm a nostalgia buff.  I'm betting that statement comes as no surprise to any regular "Slight Detour" readers.  I think I've shown my weakness for all things reflective of the past a time or two in my blog entries.

I love anything that triggers a trip to the past.  Seems like the Christmas season offers a plethora of such moments.   To me, these cherished reflections rank right up there with a great ZAGS game,  Second Avenue Hawaiian Pizza or a fun horseback ride. 

Yesterday I enjoyed a moment of nostalgia while standing in line at Yoke's with my $50 worth of caloric delights for upcoming batches of Christmas cookies.

Yes, there's some sentimental flavor in every batch of Christmas cookies baked here at the Lovestead.  

My mother started me out on the Christmas baking sprees through her example of feeding friends and neighbors with her delicious cookie plates.

So, yesterday I was buying the goods for those wonderful praline pecan bars, introduced to me by my friend Cherry.  I also bought marshmallows and evaporated milk for chocolate fudge, always a staple among my mother's offerings.

The pile also included several bags of various-flavored chips and two or three cake mixes, which will work well in some cookie recipes.

After I dropped my load onto Millie's checkstand counter, Millie looked at the lady behind me and commented on her bag of nuts in the shell.

"Yes, my mother always had nuts in the shell for Christmas," the lady said, adding that she just had to scoop some up when she discovered them in the bin.

I joined the conversation, adding that, in addition to unshelled nuts, my mother always had little dishes of brightly colored hard candy around the house at Christmas.

That inspired a story about her Italian grandmother who made miniature cookies and then dabbed them with honey.  

"So good," she said, "I made a pig out of myself on those." 

Later, when I was visiting my mother, Jeannie, the nurse, asked about our family baking traditions.

I told her how Mother had served as my example and that one of the more meaningful memories involved my folks trips on Thanksgiving and Christmas to Dusty's cabin.

Dusty was the neighborhood hermit who may end up being the central figure in one of my "roundtoit" stories.  He lived in a shack just up the road from us.

My folks would take him plates of Christmas cookies as well as holiday meals.  Dusty never had much to say as they entered his humble abode, but they knew he appreciated their visit AND the food.

The nurse also asked me if I used my mother's recipes for my Christmas cookies.

"No," I said, then thinking of her standard yearly batches of Christmas fruit cookies.  Mother bought all kinds of dried fruits and nuts and then ran them through the meat grinder.  

I used to love watching the gooey mixture shoot out of the opening and cascade into the bowl on her bread board.

One fact I did not share with the nurse was the year that Mother cut off part the tip of a finger while grinding away at that fruit.

We never did know for sure if that year's batch had a little extra protein.  We hope not.

The other nostalgia that always went along with Christmas cookies at the North Boyer farm involved all the methods Mother used to hide them from her "three little pigs," otherwise known as Mike, Kevin and Marianne.

It was a yearly struggle for her to come up with new places to hide the fudge or the cannisters full of cookies. 

I think we outsmarted her almost every year, and I'm thinking that knowing that Christmas cookie supplies could possibly dwindle keeps me ever alert and sneaky also. 

So far, my holiday cookie losses have never come close to those of my mother's. 

Of course, a lot of that has to do with the fact that my kids are grown and out of the house.  Plus, even when they were little, they never seemed quite as hungry as we were ALL THE TIME.

My day of nostalgia was topped off by two incidents happening within minutes of each other.  

I came upstairs and sat down reading the final pages of Scott Wyatt's book.  The phone rang.

I got up and answered.

"I've got the wrong number,"  a lady with a distinctive Southern drawl said.

"Okay," I said and hung up.

Just as I sat down again, the phone rang again.

"Marianne, this is Shirley Beasley.  I accidentally dialed your number when I meant to call somebody else," she explained.

Shirley started out first grade with me at Lincoln Elementary School.  She moved away before we graduated from high school.  

Decades later, I reconnected with my classmate who has spent most of her adult life in Mississippi, where the family had lived before coming to Sandpoint.

Well, Shirley and I did a little catching up and then wished each other a Merry Christmas.

After reading the last few pages of my book, I walked to the computer and opened up a Christmas letter from Laura Delamarter. 

"Wow," I thought, "two Lincoln School classmates within a span of just a few minutes."  

Nostalgia, all right.  And, when it comes to Laura, tasty nostalgia too.

The story of eating 13 of her mother Eleanor's fresh-baked orange cinnamon rolls in one sitting so many years ago has to rank right up there with the best of my nostalgic life moments.

The longer I write, the hungrier I'm getting, so I'd better shut up, post this and go bake some more Christmas cookies.

Happy Wednesday.  


Patsy said...

Marianne I also am a very nostalgic person. My mind always goes to various Christmases in different places we have lived. We did not spend a Christmas in Sandpoint, but we did in Spokane. It is one of my favorite memories. The 3 Christmases that we spent in The Netherlands is my all time favorites...someday I need to write a book on all my travels.

Anonymous said...

I hope you share the recipes.

Connie Kimble said...

Oh my... we have so many things in common... namely memories of all things Christmas cookie like. :)
This one surely made me homesick... and that's not always a bad thing.
Thank you and Season's Greetings.

Dena said...

Check out one of my nostalgic Christmas poems...