It’s odd how the brain works during the fortnight before Christmas. Despite the insurmountable list of things that “must be done” the overachieving type is always looking for one more thing to add to the number. I know how that is. Why, just yesterday afternoon I walked up to Food City to get a bag of flour for an extra batch of cookies and had one of those moments. A pickup truck drove by and I heard the distinct tap tap tap of studded snow tires; the tappet-y tap sound reminded me I should hang some pictures before Christmas.
Thinking about hanging pictures got me pondering my home’s general interior aesthetic and I wondered if it would be possible to have one my old wing chairs re-upholstered before Saturday night. And if that were possible, I could probably paint one of the upstairs spare bedrooms and while I was at it, I could make some fudge and then finish reading both 500 page books on my nightstand. Goodness, I’d be such a sparkling holiday hostess. Any why can’t all those things get done?
After all, it’s only December 12.
We now live in a world detached from time; we forget how long it really takes to paint, paper, cut, and cook. By the time I returned from Food City, I’d walked through all those ideas with sense and reason and I’d crossed all of them off my list…every last one.
Darn studded snow tires.
Fortunately, my mental list-making and breaking gave me the time I needed to put away the rest of my garden tools.
Then I spent some time experimenting with a recipe for “Cheese Crunchies” by Marjorie Standish. They’re a simplified version of cheese straws and they’re perfect for any party. Get this…you make a dough with sharp cheese, butter, crisped rice cereal, flour and seasonings. Chill, roll into balls, and bake. They’re delicious in an old-timey, let’s party like it’s 1949 kind of way.
Marjorie Standish must have been an overachiever. She started her career as a newspaper columnist on December 19, 1948 in the Maine Sunday Telegram’s “magazine” section. Her column, “Maine Kitchens” ran for twenty-five years. I wonder how and when she got her copy from her home in Gardiner to Portland? Did she and her editor talk by telephone? Was she tethered to the wall of her kitchen by her telephone cord, one hand holding the receiver and the other stirring a pot of simmering chowder? She began her first column like this:
“Goodness…you tired? Me, too! But we really have to think about meals and do some cooking, in spite of the Christmas rush. Besides, did you ever hear of a Christmas season that wasn’t crowded full? It just wouldn’t be Christmas, would it, if we didn’t whirl like dervishes until Dec. 25. So here we are all busy in different sorts of ways and would it make your way a bit easier if you could have some help planning a supper menu that you could use after a hectic day?
We all want an easy menu, but most important of all it has to be inexpensive. In starting a column on Maine foods, I could be very Christmasy, but I have a feeling this is more what you need right now.”
Standish then provided a menu with recipes for “Scalloped Potatoes and Bologna” served with a “Medium White Sauce” and “Graham Muffins.” She ended the column with a recipe for “Chocolate Macaroons” and said “I know that you feel as I do that nothing conjures up old-fashioned Christmas spirit like making cookies during the holiday season. Made by the giver, they are one of the nicest gifts—the kind that money can’t buy.”
As Marjorie Standish says, it wouldn’t be Christmas if we weren’t “whirling like dervishes” until December 25. The town plow made the first pass at approximately 4:00 a.m. and they’ve gone by again in the time I’ve been writing and posting this piece. I’m going out to shovel in our first big snowfall of the season.