Holiday warmth and cheer
Up at Five O’Clock Somewhere, I’m really getting into the spirit of the holiday season. Partly, it’s the weather – it’s suitably cold, with snow on the ground and more expected to fall soon. We’ve had wildlife all around, including the deer, elk, cottontails, jackrabbits, various sorts of birds, and maybe the occasional rodent or two. We’ve also seen paw prints in the snow indicating some sort of relatively large cat has been around, probably a bobcat.
Then I’ve also got a holiday playlist going on my iTunes. It’s eclectic, with such varied items as Handel’s Messiah, Holiday Sing with Frank and Bing, Mannheim Steamroller, Jimmy Buffett, and The Whataburger Christmas Record. I’ve always loved Christmas music, and in years past I just haven’t been able to get into the spirit without the soundtrack.
Last night’s power outage was only 44 minutes, but the outside temperature was around zero, so even with the extra-heavy-duty insulation we got with this house, things were getting chilly. We had arrived late, and so we didn’t have a fire going in the fireplace – that would have made things quite nice, since this is a super-efficient fireplace that generally can keep that whole end of the house warm.
One thing that we did do in response to the power outage was to light an oil lamp. There wasn’t much oil in that lamp, so today I was refilling it. I realized that we were nearly out of oil. Hmmm … this was on the first day of Hanukkah.
Today, we went in to Chama, and we visited the resurrected Chama Valley Supermarket. It’s awesome – lots bigger than the original store, but it still keeps the right spirit for a small community. It was so great to see the people working there who had been relocated to Española for many months during reconstruction.
When we got back from our shopping trip, we got the fire going in the fireplace. It’s been warming the house, both literally and figuratively, since then.
We’ve been on an austerity budget lately, which means that we aren’t buying gifts for very many people this year. Instead, we are baking goodies, which we will be tucking into decorative tins that we already have. Primarily, Gerald and I have been baking bizcochitos, traditional New Mexican cookies whose main flavor is anise seeds. Part of the magic of good bizcochitos is the texture, soft and light, so that they practically melt in the mouth. This texture is achieved by the use of lard. Nothing else will work quite as well. People keeping to kosher or vegetarian diets can substitute butter, which is nice but not really the same. Vegans have to make do with vegetable shortening, which just doesn’t measure up at all.
Then Gerald got the idea that we should put not just bizcochitos in the holiday tins, but also chocolate-chip cookies. I had a “eureka” moment. When I was growing up, the family would visit my dad’s parents in El Paso, and in addition to my grandparents, there was also the maid, Mary, who had been serving the family for decades. When we came, she always baked chocolate-chip cookies, and they were unequalled by any other chocolate-chip cookies I have ever encountered. They had gooey chocolate chips, set into the most delectable, melt-in-the-mouth dough ever. We never learned her secret … until now. All of the recipes I’ve seen call for either shortening or butter; Gerald and I substituted lard, and we ended up with … Mary’s chocolate-chip cookies. Awesome.