Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cooking/Baking (not recipes) (10/16/08)
TITLE: And It Was Good
By Carol Sprock
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It came to pass every year that Mother’s nimble hands darted across the formless void of counter space. There she separated egg yolks from whites; sifted Gold Medal flour with salt and baking soda; creamed oleo and Crisco shortening with confectioner’s sugar; spooned real vanilla extract. And behold, the Westinghouse electric mixer whirred until the sugar-cookie dough appeared and bowls filled the refrigerator. Plain, red, and green dough made she them and pronounced them good. So they rested overnight.
The next morning she prepared egg-yolk paint in squatty plastic Tupperware bowls, placing new paint brushes and Q-tips beside each. Swaddling the kitchen table with newspaper and paper towels, she called her four children to come forth and decorate, each to their own square of wax paper. Eldest Son carefully unbent and reshaped the metal cookie cutters while Mother appointed the varied candy decorations to their stations, sternly ordering Youngest Son not to eat the red hots or surely he would be spanked.
From the chilly depths arose the first bowl, and Mother whopped her worn wooden rolling pin swiftly and firmly to form a doughy landscape across which flashed the cutters. Her wrists twisted every which way as her quick eye gauged the angle of each slice and used every millimeter of dough possible, before remolding and rolling once again. The floured metal spatula carefully eased itself under the cut-outs, prying the delicate frames from the board, and the shapes—each after its own kind—were momentarily suspended in air before being splayed across a cookie sheet. So came Christmas trees, big and small; Santa in profile—his boxy bag across his back; the bell with clapper and the one without; stars with plain and beveled edge; candy-cane shepherd crooks; gingerbread boys—Mother created them one and all.
Daughter gathered the first filled cookie sheet and set it on the decorating table. There the four children breathed life into each thing, calling them by name. At first, everyone was good and they knew no shame as they plied red for Santa, yellow for stars, and blue overalls for gingerbread men. Youngest Son ate not the cinnamon candies but used them for buttons on shirts. Raisins became eyes, and coconut pantomimed beards. Green sugar on green egg-yolk paint hinted at pine needles on Christmas trees, tiny pastel nonpareils dancing across in diagonal rows for lights.
The kitchen soon swelled with heat and steam covered the ice-frosted windows. Second Son whispered behind Mother’s back, “What if these are gingerbread girls, not boys?” and cleverly clothed one with a green polka-dot bikini, yellow hair, red-hot mouth, blue eyes, and chocolate sprinkles for eyelashes. Then Eldest Son developed a line of fig-leaf costumes while Youngest Son slyly chewed red hots, and Daughter begged to use the gingerbread-person cutter in green dough to bring forth Martians.
Once Mother saw that her children knew good from evil and cared not one bit, she left the unrolled dough and joined their play. Bells grew shaggy with coconut smushed into green sugar soaking in purple egg-yolk paint swirled hastily from red and blue food coloring. Stars missing legs were cast not into the dough field but grew into elves, and Santa’s beard developed fangs. Together, Mother and children toasted one another with their favorite warm-from-the-oven oddities, the concoctions sacrificed in delectable delight to their hunger demons.
Evening came. A misshapen green-and-gold candy-cane cookie pitted with melted nests of cinnamon candies found its way into Father’s mouth while he watched Mother place Christmas cookies in tins. Together, they looked over everything that was made and saw that it was good—very good.
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