‘Tis the season. Can you feel it in the air? At my house, it’s beginning to feel a lot like a joyous gift-giving December holiday, which in my case is Hanukkah.
No, there’s no tree. I am a fan of Christmas, and I appreciate other people’s fragrant and sparkly firs, but I don’t put up a “Hanukkah bush” myself. Even in normal years, you won’t find a gaily adorned evergreen tree in my living room and it’s even more unlikely this year. There’s no room for it, what with everything else that has been shoved into the room to get it out of the way of the kitchen renovation.
Hanukkah is called the Festival of Lights, but I also haven’t strung up strands of blinking lights in my few square feet of livable space. (Well, actually, there are some bulbs and wires dangling from the ceiling in the dining room, but they’re not all that twinkly — just utilitarian place holders until the fixture is reinstalled.)
Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, but I won’t be lighting any candles either. The last time I exited my cozy bedroom refuge to visit the refrigerator (which has taken up residence near the sofa in the frigid living room), I noticed my menorah sitting on the mantle. But unfortunately, the candles for it are buried in a box far out of reach in the guest bedroom, so I will have to skip that ceremony too.
For many people, the sound of Christmas carols signals the holiday. However, my contractor’s taste in music leans toward classic oldies, so the uplifting soundtrack in my house currently is more “Stairway to Heaven” than “Little Drummer Boy.” (Though come to think of it, “Light My Fire” could be a Hanukkah ditty.)
And alas, the tempting smell of cookies baking is not wafting through the house as in other years. I have yet to figure out a way to bake without an oven (or a kitchen). I suppose I could make an effort to fry up some latkes on the burners in the outdoor kitchen, but cooking out there has become pretty unappealing in the cold and damp.
Greeting cards are starting to arrive in the mail; they always bring on a feeling of seasonal cheer. But I can’t find any place to display them like I usually do, so they are sitting in a tidy pile rather than providing holiday décor.
But my house is looking very festive nonetheless.
Because, as a special treat for the season, my contractor gift-wrapped all the new cabinets once he installed them.
As with all holiday gift givers, he has been lying about it to maintain the surprise. I’m sure that’s why he used brown paper instead of more colorful gift wrap. He claims that all the paper is there to protect the cabinets as he works on the walls and ceiling, but I can see through him. I know he’s hiding them from me as a special treat, so I’ll have something big and exciting to unwrap for the holidays.
I’m just not sure which holiday he is aiming for.
Hanukkah lasts into next week, but even so, I don’t think the big reveal will make that deadline.
He may be planning on Christmas, which would be fine by me. I’d happily celebrate it this year, if I could do it in a beautiful new kitchen.
But given the vagaries of renovation and the irritating lack of urgency on the part of the countertop guy, I fear it could be somewhat later.
I’m brushing up on the Greek Orthodox church, in the event I am celebrating Christmas with them on January 7.
And as a backup, I am also reading up on Martin Luther King, Jr., just in case the holiday that honors him turns out to be more festive than usual.
But I am putting all contractors on notice. Don’t even think about extending this process any further.
There is absolutely no chance I will be asking any of you to be my valentine.
Triple Gingery Ginger Cookies
I’m not able to do my Christmas baking this year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fantasize. Once I finally get a working oven, these old favorites are likely to be among the first things I bake. This also happens to be one of my most-requested recipes, so I’m reprinting it this week.
I can’t get enough of these cookies, so if you make them, I hope you’ll take pity on me and my current diet of microwavable food, and bring a few by my house.
3/4 cup (12 Tbsp. or 1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
5 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2-1/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar together until completely mixed and fluffy. Add molasses, egg and grated fresh ginger, and mix well.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour with the ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda and salt, and mix together. Add to the butter mixture, mixing just until flour is completely incorporated. Stir in the crystallized ginger.
On a buttered cookie sheet (or use parchment or Silpat), drop about a teaspoonful of batter for each cookie, leaving about 2 inches in between, as the cookies will spread when they bake. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool about 10 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool.
Makes 4 dozen cookies