My house looks like a bomb went off. A sugar bomb, to be precise. My youngest is having a bake-fest, and when I staggered in after working late, the condo smelled amazing. Every inch of the kitchen counter is covered with bowls and cocoa powder and sheets of parchment paper. Recipes, both new and old, are taped all over the kitchen cupboards. She’s a much more adventurous baker than I will ever be. I tend to go back to my tried and true recipes year after year, but by the time we fall into bed tonight our home will be a heady melange of the smells of old favourites with the tantalizing aromas of her latest internet recipe discoveries.
Sometimes the new recipes disappoint. One of tonight’s new ventures proved to be a dud. The dough was difficult to shape, and when it came out of the oven the cookies were tasteless. Yet another reminder that you can’t trust everything you find on the internet!
What I love is that she keeps trying new recipes even when they don’t always pan out. Christmas is an evolving tradition in our household. We have some non-negotiable traditions, but within those traditions there is room for flexibility. There WILL be massive quantities of cookies, but they might not be the same kinds every year. There WILL be a real tree (well, except that time I broke my foot and we had to stay at my mom’s over the holiday…) but it isn’t always the same kind of tree. Some years we have procured the tree from a swanky greenhouse. Some years we have trouped through the woods to cut our own. There WILL be a turkey (which I WILL be responsible for cooking!) but some years we have eaten that turkey at our house, and some years I have carted it across town to my sister’s. One year I cooked it in one sister’s oven and transported to the other sister’s house to eat.
Families evolve, and celebrations by necessity evolve along with us. Sometimes the traditions require some major re-invention. Over the years our family Christmas celebrations have been recast around births and deaths, illness and divorce. If our Christmas traditions were music they would be jazz– we have some basic melodies and chord progressions we all agree upon, but when the time comes we are always improvising variations on a theme.
Like my bundle of gift bags salvaged from bygone gifts and Boxing-Day Bargain rolls of wrap, we continue to blend the old with the new. Some new recipes will be keepers. Others we will chalk up to experience and put aside to make way for another year’s experiment.