Mother started me baking by standing me on a kitchen chair, wearing one of her aprons, and sifting flour for a cake. Back then, flour was sifted three times before mixing and baking. Mother covered the table with newspaper to catch the plops and clouds of flour I made with my vigorous turning of the handle of the sifter. I still have a sifter, and an egg beater. I still use them to cook.
I used to love to cook, and especially to bake. I have done little of either in recent years. So it is with trepidation I have decided to make a number of the old fruit breads I used to make and give for gifts. I like gifts like that--the receiver feels no obligation back, and usually is pleased. Surely habits from many years will kick in.
There's a story to the decision. Like so many things it starts with something Bad and segues into something Good.
A few weeks ago, the old freezer I had loaded to the gills died--still trying, so its' little light was on. But it was dead, and completely warm inside as I discovered when I finally smelled Something and lifted the lid. Dead, deader, deadest. Putrifying. My daughter-in-law, recovering from surgery, helped me more than she should have, and so did my 12-year-old granddaughter, who gagged but never threw up through all. We sacked and taped the bags closed and filled one tall square garbage can and one fairly large,but shorter, round can. Older son, when he got off work, re-bagged the lot in contractor's bags in an attempt to curb the smell. The cans stayed by my garage until the night before pickup. This was pretty warm weather, and the packing happened on Saturday. I took the cans to the road on Tuesday night. Ugh! horrific smell. Slight breeze from the north. I cleaned up and left for a meeting.
When I came back, a honking big truck with several lights was in the street, a couple other pickup trucks, and several people were standing around in small groups. I parked the car and headed for the door. My neighbor came running over to tell me she had called Atmos Power Company for a bad gas leak--it must be really bad because the smell was so strong. But the professionals couldn't find it. Everyone agreed it was an urgent situation.
I told her I didn't think it was a gas leak but my putrifying meat in the cans. Rotting meat and the rotten egg smell they add to natural gas smell pretty similar.
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Pretty sure," I answered. "Go tell them about my garbage cans."
The discarded freezer was still stashed on the side with its' door propped open.
Ten minutes later they had all left, and I don't think anyone even checked to make sure it was the sundry beef (I will mourn those beautiful roasts I got at a price I may never see again), two turkeys, a ham, and various chicken parts.
So the poor garbage men came--I need to do something nice for them at Christmas--and the empty freezer was hauled away. And I started shopping the internet for a replacement. I found it last weekend--an upright Fridgidaire frost-free. It was delivered and put into place on Tuesday. It is very large and very empty. And I used to make those breads, freeze the same day they came out of the oven, and give at Christmas. Plenty of time. Wish I still had my old recipe for banana bread. It was so old, the oil it called for was bacon grease. It made light, moist bread that could be sliced in quarter-inch slices. I made a test loaf of a recipe on the internet and it wasn't too bad. Very moist, flavorful, but I'd like a little more flavor.
So--I'm baking. I forgot the sour cream for the chocolate bread recipe I found. I hope that's a winner. I'm thinking of sneaking some instant coffee granules into the cocoa when I mix it. Forgot the orange juice for the cranberry nut bread, and after two stores, finally found some mincemeat for a couple loaves of mincemeat bread with orange zest. I'll add nuts and cranberries and hope it turns out similar to an old favorite. Have everything for the pear bread with lemon zest. That's a good one, too. Pumpkin bread? Eh. Most people will make their own, I think.
A couple of mincemeat loaves? Well, each loaf takes two cups of mincemeat, which is really fruits cooked with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. It used to be used for pies. Each $6 jar probably has about two cups. (The 20-something clerk at one grocery said carefully, "I've never heard of minced meat." Ah, well.)
I may not ever be able to get it, or afford to get it again unless I make the stuff. Which I could.
But that's another year.