I was something of a baker in my youth. I learned at my mother’s side, making some things from scratch, smugly shunning packaged mixes or ready-made pastries.In those halcyon days, when I had too much time (and actually thought I was busy) I could spend an entire evening or Saturday in a leisurely bake-fest. I would listen to my favorite Christmas music while I took my time measuring, mixing, blending, baking and icing, completely uninterrupted.
It’s comforting to know that I was once capable of all that and may be again someday. Motherhood, for me, has meant less oven and lots more microwave. During the first few years, I easily set aside any serious baking. It didn’t bother me much, since I was on a perpetual diet anyway and my toddlers would eat any bargain cookie I put in front of them.
Then I realized my husband was wildly devouring any homemade desserts we might stumble upon at parties, and I began to feel a little guilty. He almost whimpered with delight whenever we went to my mother’s for dinner. When my mom started baking extra pies to send home with us, I decided it was time to get back into the kitchen.
I made a special trip to the market to say my farewells and thanks to Sarah Lee and Pepperidge Farm, and then I bought large bags of flour and sugar and hunted up my old recipes.
It would be fun, I thought innocently. My beautiful children can help. You know the rest. The kids did help. First, they dug through the sandbox to find half my utensils, rusted and bent.
Then they helped spill things, drop eggs, fight over who got to stand on the stool next to me, lick the bowl and beaters, stick their hands in the hot oven and utterly distract me. We had fun, I guess, but most of the cakes were not what you would call Bon Appetit cover-shot material. We gave the results to our friends anyway, but I was moved to attach this poem:
Christmas is a-coming
with goodies for the eating.
We tried to bake a Christmas cake,
but our success was fleeting.
The oven wasn’t hot enough,
and help from kids so small
let the beaters fling the dough
all across the wall.
I couldn’t find my teaspoon
or sifter for the flour.
What used to be a cinch
took more than an hour.
We didn’t grease the pans enough,
so some cakes fell apart
How glad we are that Christmas cake
Is tasted with the heart.