McGregor Says: Memories of Christmas baking

I have a cup of coffee and a slice of eggnog bread sitting beside my laptop for inspiration. I purchased the loaf of eggnog bread at a church bazaar, mostly because I had never tasted any before and the ingredients in the recipe attached were mostly things I’m not supposed to eat.

It sounded delicious and weighed about five pounds so I was pretty sure it had to be good.

Everyone should visit at least one church bazaar prior to the holidays. Each one of them offers a bake sale and the delicacies come from someone’s kitchen, individually baked and not mass produced in a commercial bakery.

Most of the items spread out on the long tables are lovingly concocted from recipes that have been handed down for generations and maybe only come to light at this time of year. Everyone has their favourite Christmas treats. Maybe its Uncle Duncan’s squares or Aunty Marg’s cookies or grandma’s Christmas pudding.

I can remember the yellowed pieces of paper or little cards that appeared on mom’s counter at Christmastime, each one with faded writing describing the ingredients and baking instructions. Nothing was stored in a computer file and no one Googled a recipe. Those hieroglyphics were folded in the pages of cookbooks or tucked at the back of the kitchen drawer.

I recall one day when we were setting up a book section for a garage sale and one of the helpers tossed an old cookbook into the discard pile. “It’s all stained and scribbled in,” she said. I picked it up and I was immediately transported into a warm country kitchen.

The stains were from drops of jam that had dripped from a tasting spoon, or from sauces that were being transferred from the pan to the pudding. The cook book had been well used by a serious cook.

The scribbles were extra instructions about oven temperatures or to add cream instead of milk or a note that the recipe ingredients didn’t make as many cookies as the book said it would.  In the margin on one cookie page the note says, ‘These are Gary’s favourite.’ So we can only assume that any time Gary came for a visit, those cookies were on the plate by his coffee. I threw a toonie in the box and bought that book. It seemed just too much of a treasure to throw in a dumpster.

We all have a special recipe for our Christmas. The concerts we go to, the type and size of tree we get, who we send cards to, who we phone, when we decorate and how much we spend.  We know when to mix in other people and who we can blend with whom.

Some people are always a bit too sweet and others too sour. Some are tasteful and others leave a bad taste in our mouth.

The trick is not to have too much of either one.

We all remember that perfect Christmas and how great everyone felt and it seems we try to re-create it every year. But, unlike the enduring, faded notes in those old cook books, the ingredients of our Christmases change from year to year. Some old ones are not there anymore and it seems new ones are always being added.

Just keep it all at an even temperature and don’t let it boil over.

At least that’s what McGregor says.