... can get to feel like a chore. Let me explain.
Over the Thanksgiving holidays, I baked five fruitcakes, following a recipe used by my grandmother Osborn, then my mother. (I cannot remember a Christmas without them.) It's a light fruitcake--no dark and dank for the Dyers!--and I'll say that even people who profess to hate fruitcake confess to liking this one.
So far, we've given one to a neighbor (with whom we regularly exchange holiday breads), one to our daughter-in-law's grandmother (who especially loves it toasted), one to my mother (via USPS). We will slice one on Christmas Eve, when our son and his family are with us. One will remain for any future needs--and not necessarily the current holiday. Last year, I froze our final one and took it out to Massachusetts in early September when we drove there to celebrate my mom's 96th birthday.
I used to make ten of them every year--sometimes more--but my older brother started baking them a few years ago, too, so there was no need to make one for him and for my younger brother, who also lives in the Boston area. We also "entertain" very, very rarely now--almost always it's family, too. So, no need for superfluous fruitcakes.
Next--the sourdough "Christmas tree bread" (see my recent post about my history with this holiday treat)--a bit of a heavy-duty labor that takes a lot of energy for This Old Guy. But how can it be Christmas--really Christmas--without it? I made three of them this year. The largest one I sent to my younger brother, who will share it with family Back East; a smaller one we will have here on Christmas Eve with our son and family; the third (also smaller) will stay in the freezer. Perhaps our son will want it? Perhaps we'll have it ourselves on Christmas morning (when Joyce and I will exchange our gifts?). We'll see ...
Next--some cornbread, made directly from the old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook--one of the cookbooks my mother used. When we're having turkey, we use some for the stuffing; but no poultry this year, so I'll slice it and serve it, warmed, with dinner.
Next, some sourdough multi-grain bread for dinner (about 15 different sorts of flour in the mix + flax seeds). I made these loaves this past Sunday, and we will eat the long one, save the round loaf for later.
Next--this is not really baking, but it does use some sourdough bread crumbs--steamed pudding (my grandmother Osborn's recipe), our dessert every year. We have a double-boiler we use pretty much only once a year ... for this pudding that's so sweet, I recently told my mom, that you need to go to the dentist immediately after eating any of it.
Finally--a few years ago, our older grandson (Logan) was in a school production about the Gingerbread Man. And ever since then, we've baked gingerbread men cookies for Christmas--using a recipe I got online. They're great, though I don't seem to be able to locate any pictures of them. I'll have to remedy that this year (I'll be baking them tomorrow.)
As I said, all of this can feel like a chore. But not for long. Not for very long at all. For when I see these products cooling on a rack, I feel, again, that I've done something I'm supposed to do. Something that honors my grandmother, my mother, and a Dyer great-grandfather (who went on the Klondike Gold Rush and ate sourdough; as some readers know, I acquired my own starter nearly thirty years ago in Skagway, Alaska, while re-tracing parts of that ancestor's journey).
And it all makes me feel that in a tiny (somewhat tasty!) way I've contributed to the illusion of earthly immortality. I cannot see those breads, taste those breads, without thinking of my family, those still with us, those sadly gone.