Monday, October 29, 2012

'Tis the Season

You may think it is the week of Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, All Saints and All Souls Day, but you are wrong.  Those days will happen next week, but more than a daily celebration is at hand.

 It is the beginning of the holiday baking season.  Doesn’t matter which holiday you pick, anyone who has walked through a grocery store recently knows the signs…bags of flour and sugar are in every aisle, canned pumpkin appears where you least expect it, both fresh and canned cranberries are easily found.  And you thought product placement only happened in movies? The comfy cozy family aura with an aroma of home baked goodies has been firmly planted in your mind. 

I believe some people are immune to this season, but many are lured into it without realizing it. I am unabashedly lured. Like a dog sniffing a fresh new bone, I am entranced.  

Food, family and holidays are one and the same to me. This was the focus of my presentation “Grebel & Gem├╝tlichkeit” at the AHSGR Convention in Portland.  The local Arizona Sun Chapter has invited me to present this workshop again on December 1, right between the two peaks of the holiday baking season, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For most people, the memories of food and family are what make the holiday come alive.  My senses must have been in tune with the season long before the stores displayed their baking merchandise based on my recent book choice.

Last week I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. Kingsolver and company take the “buy local” food mantra to a level I've  never experienced.  And, my grandparents were farmers!

Many recognize Kingsolver as the best-selling author of The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible.  She called Arizona her home for decades until she married Steven L. Hopp and spent her summers at his farm in Virginia.
As she returned to her farming roots, her concern for our petroleum spending, fast food nation obsession grew.  After they decided to make their home in Virginia year round, the family agreed to accept the challenge of only eating food they grew or was grown within an hour’s drive of their home.

An ambitious goal for many, Kingsolver’s determination would be impossible for me. I know my limits. This culinary lifestyle goes well beyond commitment.  I will spare you the details of harvesting turkey and chicken.  Those things you can read for yourself.  And, I strongly recommend that you do.

After the toils of spring, summer and autumn, Kingsolver experiences the joy of the holiday baking season.   She writes:

“Kitchen-based family gatherings are process-oriented, cooperative, and in the best of worlds, nourishing and soulful. A lot of calories get used up before anyone sits down to consume. But more importantly, a lot of talk happens first, news exchanged, secrets revealed across generations, paths cleared with a touch on the arm. I have given and received some of my life’s most important hugs with those big oven-mitt potholders on both hands.” pg. 288.

When she further discusses her experience with the Day of the Dead, she explains how she is drawn to this celebration.

“When I cultivate my garden I’m spending time with my grandfather, sometimes recalling deeply buried memories of him, decades after his death.  While shaking beans from an envelope I have been overwhelmed by a vision of my Pappaw’s speckled beans and flat corn seeds in peanut butter jars in his garage, lined up in rows, curated as carefully as a museum collection. That’s Xantolo, a memory space opened before my eyes, which has no name in my language.” pg. 290.
Kingsolver said Xantolo is found in many places, such as fields of marigold and farmer’s markets. While I cannot live a year of food as she did, I will consciously shop and choose the best local products I can find during this holiday baking season.  I have a lot of investigation to do but in the meantime...Chandler Farmer’s MarketQueen Creek Olive Mill and Kokopelli Winery, here I come.  

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