I’m pretty sure that if love of baking is a genetic thing, I come by it honestly. The baking gene has been passed down from both sides of my family tree. My mom is an amazing baker whose sugar cookies and coffee cake are the stuff of legends. And my dad’s mom, my Grandmother, made cakes and pies that would bring grown men to tears.
Truthfully, from the time I was a little girl, the act of baking was ingrained into my heart as a way to express love. I’d watch my mom work in the kitchen and would often get to help. Measuring, stirring, smelling the vanilla, taste-testing the chocolate chips to make sure they were “still good,” these were jobs for us kids. Then, at Christmas, we’d get to help cut out the sugar cookies and make huge messes decorating them with buttercream icing and sprinkles galore. I can still feel Mom, standing behind me, helping me with the rolling pin. Her hands on mine, guiding me and teaching me so much more than what sugar cookie dough should feel like when it’s ready to cut.
And Grandmother’s Christmas Eve Buffet? Holy culinary cornucopia! All manor of savoy and sweet delights were spread down the counters, over the table, and around the room. Surely, in all the years she put on the spread, I don’t think anyone ever went away hungry. What stood out to me, however, was the fact that even though there were upwards of 40-50 people there every year, she would make sure there was something special for everyone on the buffet. Even if you were the only one who liked a specific thing, Grandmother would make sure it was there for you. And all the over-worked, over-tired moms in all the land know what an incredible feat that is!
Continuing the tradition
So, how do I show my love at the holidays? Well, like Sara Bareilles in the musical “Waitress” would say…
My hands pluck the things I know that I’ll need
I take the sugar and butter from the pantry
I add the flour to begin what I am hoping to start
And then it’s down with the recipe
And bake from the heart
Yep, I bake like a fiend.
Sure, there are the staples that get made year after year. The cut-out sugar cookies are the same recipe my mom uses. Peanut butter buckeyes and cinnamon roasted pecans aren’t just tasty for our family, but make for amazing teacher gifts. Those three are kind of the holy trinity of Christmas baking and will be forever and ever, amen.
But every year, I ask Greg and kids what they would like to see on a goodie tray. White chocolate animal crackers, chocolate toffee pretzels, Andes mint marvels, chocolate chip meringues, chocolate covered cherry cookies and the ubiquitous chocolate chip seem to round things out. (And, wow. Looking at that list in its entirety makes me think I need to sign my family up for Chocoholics Anonymous!)
People ask me that every year. Why do I make all those cookies? How can I spend all that time in the kitchen? Isn’t that a lot of work?
My answers? Because I love my people. It’s my happy place. And, you bet your sweet bippy it is!
Honestly, I think it comes down to charism. The Siena Institute says:
“Charism” is the Greek word used in the New Testament for “favor” or “gratuitous gift.” Charisms, or spiritual gifts, are special abilities given to all Christians by the Holy Spirit to give them power both to represent Christ and to be a channel of God’s goodness for people. Whether extraordinary or ordinary, all charisms ought to be exercised in the service of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2003).
We all have things we’re good at, sure. But what about those things that, when you are doing them, they bring you real joy? The things that make your heart soar and seem to come more easily to you than to others? Activities you can’t imagine your life without? The things in your life that others seem to equate with you as a person and really appreciate about you specifically? These might just be your charisms.
Some people might have a charism for hospitality, for wisdom, for writing, for administration, or for service. Me? I think I can name two of mine. Baking and music. I show my love for God and others every time I pull out that sugar-butter-flour and every time I open my mouth to sing. I use the talents He has given me to share His love and to give Him glory. So you can imagine my joy when I get the chance to crank up the Christmas tunes and spend a day in the kitchen!
Sharing the love (and a recipe)
Ok, you’ve stuck with me this long. I’ve gone on and on about some awesome ladies in my family. I’ve preached at you about charisms. And you’re like, “Beth! Seriously! Where’s that recipe?!”
Here it is, my loves. Wait no longer. And then go buy yourselves some pecans.
Click the link for the printable PDF —> Cinnamon Roasted Pecans
Now, friends. What is it that you do at the holidays to show your love? Are you a baker? Do you wrap gifts like pieces of artwork? Are you an amazing gift-giver? Leave a comment and let me know! And whatever it is that makes your heart sing this Christmas, do it with gusto. Do it with a love for the newborn Christ-child in your heart and it will be perfection itself.