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Maple Gingerbread for a Winter Holiday

Maple Gingerbread for a Winter Holiday

The Delicios Cake! (photo I.C.)

Isabel Cowles Murphy | Chef's Blade

On Friday, I sat at my desk and watched fat puffs of snow fall from an all-white sky. Ordinarily it would not be such an occurrence for me to be distracted by drifting snow on December 4th. But last Friday, I was really, really mesmerized. At times, completely lost in a faraway fantasy, which may also have had something to do with the Christmas cookies one of our interns brought in. Also, my after school class was canceled. As I stared at the flecks of white, I, too drifted away, back to so many gray mornings when I huddled silently, blankets tucked behind my tiny head, praying, praying praying for the welcome ring of the snow day phone call. How is it that little kids can sense a snow day? They came like Christmas morning, with me trying my very hardest to stay in bed past 5 am, but squirming with anticipation while thoughts of sledding and hot chocolate danced through my head.

Still, those mornings happened in Connecticut, far north of here. Here, it rarely snows at all—though last winter there was a fifteen-minute flurry that caused as many accidents during its fleeting lifespan. And even though not an inch stuck to the wet ground, the Houston Independent School District was quick to shut its doors this year, remembering, I suppose, the many car crashes that ensued during the city’s last dusting.

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Crystallized ginger (photo I.C.)

Or maybe the educational honchos did it because they felt like every kid deserves at least one snow day in his or her lifetime. Did a very benevolent superintendent wake up and think to himself, “This day, December 4, might be my only chance to give these kids a shot at snow angels?” Or maybe he wanted to give all his exhausted teachers a chance to put their feet up with some hot, buttered rum. These were the things I thought about as I stared at my reflection against the backdrop of a neighbor’s white, speckled rooftop.

The house was full this weekend, which always makes things feel festive, no matter what the weather. But these last few days, with friends and flurries all around us, things really felt special. The kind of special that makes you want to eat gingerbread and homemade whipped cream.

A few of our favorite people came by on Saturday night for an evening of champagne; spicy shrimp and chorizo soup; a caramelized onion crostata; a lively game of charades and finally gingerbread, dusted with sugar and piled high with whipped cream. All of that eating, drinking and playing exhausted us enough to spread communally onto couches and overstuffed chairs and fall asleep—like the naked lethargarians in the Phantom Tollbooth. I always identify with those little creatures after a big meal. Needless to say, I woke up this morning feeling very full of the holiday spirit indeed.

And though the guests have departed, a few slices of maple gingerbread remain, along with quite a cloud of whipped cream. A gal can never feel sad with a fridge full of the holidays.