Trina Machacek: Peek and boo-hoo
I started my holiday baking. Oh, I’m making all my normal regulars. English toffee, peanut brittle, spiced nuts. But this year, I’ve decided to throw a newcomer into the mix. Some pumpkin biscotti. On the outset, that doesn’t sound like a big deal. It is a big deal, though. I don’t like to step outside of the normal on holiday baking. Don’t get that confused with the fact that I will never stay within the lines when it comes to living my life! No, those lines are put in front of me just to see how far afield I will travel across them. Wahoo!
Baking has changed in the years since cooking channels and the Internet. I do not find that comforting. I go to my little tin box and pull out handwritten recipes to guide me along. Cards with years of sticky substances on them that make them crackle as I pull them apart. I like to think that crackling is like the cackle of all the women in warm kitchens who have made these treasures for years and years. The recipe cards are somewhat yellowed, corners bent. As the aprons belonging to cooks past yellowed with age and the deep corners of all those minds bent and gave way, like old trees bend to let light hit the new upcoming trees, I was one of those trees, the new ones.
Holiday cooking is an art. A family tradition. Makes the house smell all comfy and feel warm. Yes, my house smells all comfortable — well it did until that new guy, the pumpkin biscotti decided to pop into the holiday baking mix. I should have known better. I’d forgotten, for just a second, something I learned a long time ago. OK here’s the whole sorted story…
Come on, who doesn’t rattle a package under the tree with their name on it when you’re a kid. In many homes, the Christmas gifts begin to appear, let’s go with mid-December, and the piles grow with good tidings until the day. Oh sure, sure, many parents work late into the night Christmas Eve putting together bikes and dream houses to set the stage for little ones to be amazed by at 4:27 a.m. just as Mom and Dad lay their tired heads on soft cool pillows. I have those memories and I hope you do to.
But! Yes, sir, a holiday “but” has come down the chimney. But I’m here to discuss the pre-Christmas morning gifts, the ones that are available to peek at! I admit here and now — I have peeked. Once!
Over the years, I have always kidded about giggling, shaking and toe-moving gifts under our Christmas trees. Saying I have to move them so I can vacuum or dust. Laughing and adding to the holiday fun. But I will never peek — again. As I remember, I was about 15 or 16. Old enough to know better but still young enough to not to know better. There was a gift under the tree for me and it was so pretty and the shape was kinda funky. Not square or round or regular. It had tiers and irregular corners and I found myself looking at it, just sitting under the tree, with my name on it — and I was home alone!
I moved it a bit with my toe. I slid it around under the power of my finger, checking the weight. Got a little bolder. Picked it up and turned it over, maybe there was a tiny spot the paper didn’t cover. Nope! Then the guy dressed in red, riding through life atop his Harley on my right shoulder beat up the guy wearing white floating on a white cloud above my left shoulder and I did it. I peeked. I’m not going to tell you what it was. Just going to leave you wondering. Oh, I was very excited to see what it was and I did a little happy dance. Then…
When Christmas came and I opened the gift, I had to act surprised and excited. It was awful, sad and awful. I felt like a thief. I had not only robbed myself of the excitement of receiving the gift. I also in a way stole those same things from the giver. That was the one, the only time I ever actually peeked at a gift. Which brings me back to the pumpkin biscotti.
There’s really no correlation. Oh, it turned out great. Come on, I have years of baking behind me! It goes great with coffee. Happy to share the recipe. Just wanted to tell the peeking story so you would learn from me that the excitement, the promise of the season His gift. Without peeking, let it come.
Trina lives in Eureka, Nevada. Share with her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Really!