This time each year, when the short days and breezy chill lure me inside, I experience a culinary wanderlust. I meander through my collection of cookbooks and create menus for the holidays. My chihuahua can’t believe his good fortune. He drapes himself over my legs in fits of slumber and stops pestering me for affection only when I keep one hand idly tickling his belly.
It is in this setting that all things gingerbread inevitably invade my recipe search. I’m not sure why. It’s akin to my fascination with sourdough, but it doesn’t require the same amount of attention. By tweaking the ingredients just a bit, one can easily create pancakes, cake and dip, lattes, muffins and cookies.
Gingerbread today differs from its namesake. In times past, gingerbread simply meant preserved ginger. But by the 15th century it usually referred to cake made from a dense dough of breadcrumbs or ground almonds mixed with honey or spices. This dough was often pressed into intricate molds. People created treats from ingredients readily available and worked it into their celebrations and gift giving.
I’ll bake this year’s gingerbread cake close to the time our kids return home for Thanksgiving. My newest recipe discovery includes an array of bold ingredients: ground and fresh ginger, robust molasses, a touch of fresh pepper and stout beer. I want to linger with anticipation over that cake when it’s merely a batter, stand over the oven as it bakes to breathe in the emerging aromas, then let each bite sit on my tongue for a moment when it’s cool enough to taste. I hope for a malty tang, a moist dense cake and a peppery bite from the ginger.
If family members give it a thumbs up, I may give it as a gift this year. It is the kind of baked item that can hold up against plastic wrap and a certain amount of jostling and travel.
Yet, as practical as I like to be, I don’t ever want to be viewed as a shrink-wrapped, prepackaged woman of faith — especially now. I don’t want what I do and what I’ve come to believe about God to become a message that’s dry and nearly impossible to swallow. So I’m looking for just the right recipe — the right mixture of faith to understand the issues facing people around us and the energy to care about those impacted. Let’s make the impending holiday season about bold, spicy choices. If we see a need, let’s find a way to fill it. Let’s spend time creating memories, expressing support, love and appreciation. Let’s reach out to people we regularly think about and care for, but are lost in the shuffle of busyness. Let’s schedule times to pray and worship. Let’s get a little uncomfortable and stressed because reaching out beyond our normal routines and associations can be a worthy challenge.
Read the paper. Read your church bulletin. Talk with your neighbors. Call social agencies. Make it your business to find out what’s really needed this year here in Oak Harbor and create a recipe for change that draws upon the best of what you have to give.