Last year around this time I posted recipes and did a sort of countdown of all the traditional Polish cooking I do this time of year. I also did some non-traditional baking…why, I have no idea. Just woke up one morning and thought: I think I’ll make Christmas cookies. Right.
I decided I was not doing that this year. I have enough on my plate, no pun intended, without slaving for hours over pavlova and red velvet cookies. However. Whilst searching the pantry for something –meaning I knew I had it somewhere but couldn’t find it so I tore apart the pantry in the kitchen, the two big pantry cupboards in the laundry room, and the spice cupboards above the stove, then sat there exhausted on the floor looking at the piles of debris scattered here there and everywhere–I came across two recipes I used to make faithfully each Christmas. They’ve been *lost* for the past 25 years or so, which says more for my packing and unpacking methods than it does for the actual merit of the recipes. The last time I saw these recipes, we lived in the west end of the city, in Bramalea. This was where, coincidentally, I was invited to that cookie exchange party I mentioned in a previous blog, which was such a resounding calamity of errors with regards to my cookie skills, that I tucked all my desert recipes away in a folder, put the folder into a brown envelope, and shoved the envelope in the bottom of the *junk drawer*.
I’m sure everyone has a junk drawer, and everyone *knows* that all the junk in there is valuable. So when we moved from Eden Pit to the east end of the city, I pretty much packed up everything from one junk drawer and moved it to the new house and unpacked it into the new junk drawer. Large brown envelopes tend to be put on the bottom, like shelf liner, and when we moved again, a year and a half later, same process. Out of one drawer and into the new one. Somewhere over the next 13 years, while we were in Ajax, I moved the wad of recipes out of the drawer and put them into a standup file with some cook books. When we moved from North Noake to present day Sharon, the file and the cookbooks got tossed into a box with other sundry kitchen stuff and dutifully shlepped to the new location…where, for some reason, they were shoved onto the very bottom shelf, way at the back, of the huge closet at the back door that was converted into a third pantry cupboard.
I like gagets, you see. And there are only so many gagets you can cram into normal kitchen cupboards, plus I have a bazillion serving dishes and…well…just *stuff*. The grandkids like ten different kinds of cereal, so those boxes have to go somewhere too. Besides that, you’re reading the blog of someone who has a fridge dedicated to condiments only *snort* So three separate pantry cupboards is quite normal.
So. I found this folder whilst hunting for the elusive vanilla paste. Imagine my pleasure and surprise when I opened it and discovered all sorts of goodies…the warranty for a hand mixer that’s been in a landfill for 20 years, several old one dollar bills (we don’t even use them anymore since switching to loonie coins about 15 years ago) some postcards from people I don’t remember, some photos that were hidden away for good reason, and omg…some handwritten recipes that I’ve often thought about and wondered where they disappeared to. One in particular, for THE best Christmas cake, was the recipe my mother made every year for as far back as I can remember. I had asked her for it the year I got married so I could bake one of my own, but instead of parting with the recipe, she made me a cake. I tried to explain that wasn’t the point, that I wanted to make it myself, and when I asked the next year, yep, she just made another cake for me.
I realized the problem the following year when I again asked for the recipe. This time she made me sit in the kitchen and write it down as she made it because all those years, she never had an actual recipe, she just eyeballed it. I watched her make it, stopped her when she was going to add something so I could take a rough measurement. Coffee cup full of this, 1/2 whack of that, fill your palm like so for that. It was a challenge to measure a half whack, but in the end I had a recipe that worked…at least for the 13 years we lived in Eden Pit. When we moved to Ajax, that was when I put my foot down about not leaving home on Christmas Day, so the family had to shlepp across the city to spend the day at my house, and of course my mother insisted on bringing the cake so I didn’t have make it for the next few years. After my dad passed away, there were no more shlepping family dinners, so no more cakes were baked and I think, by the time we moved again, I thought I had lost the recipe.
But there it was, clutched in my hand. Written in pencil, very badly faded, on lined paper torn out of a notebook she’d had handy in the kitchen that day. I actually put it up to my nose thinking I could smell the actual cake on it, because I could sure see it and could almost taste it. I wrote out a list of ingredients I needed and the very next day made it. Even managed to find the baking pan that was only ever used to bake that one particular cake. Had to crawl into a deep back cupboard to get it (found my missing wok ring at the same time huzzah!) but I knew exactly where it was.
Soaked a full whack of craisins in rum, chopped up the almonds and pecans and dried pineapple, apricots, and orange peel, the red and green cherries. Mixed the flour and eggs and butter…more rum…a half whack of sugar. Filled the scooped palm of my hand with lemon zest. And voila. Same cake I remembered. Same smell while it was baking. Same taste.
Merry Christmas Memories. *s* Can’t beat ’em.