Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Westside Writers 2011 Happy Holiday Challenge Entry


“Knock, knock.” The grey-haired woman said, unsure if her mother was sleeping. “Ma, it’s Lizzie.”

“Come in.” The old woman turned from the window and examined the unfamiliar face with eyes clouded by so many decades. “Are you new here, dear?”

“No, Ma, it’s Elizabeth. Your daughter.”

“Yes, my daughter’s name is Elizabeth, but we call her Lizzie. Is she coming to visit?”

Lizzie let out a gentle sigh and looked at the plastic box in her hands. “I’ve brought your favorite Christmas cookies.” She approached her mother’s wheelchair and popped open the red lid. The heady smell of spices spilled out of the green container transporting the women to a warm kitchen.

“It’s just me, Ma.”

“How was school, dear?”

“I got a B+ on my history paper. Yum. That gingerbread smells super! When are you going to teach me the recipe?”

“We can mix up another batch of dough for Christmas Eve. Change out of your school clothes.”

Lizzie shot out of the kitchen and returned wearing jeans and an old sweatshirt before her mother had set out everything they needed. “Wash your hands; then, an orange.” Lizzie complied. “Next we put some sugar in a saucepan. I use this old, chipped cup to measure. Fill it to just below the chip.”

Lizzie carefully spooned sugar in the cup, unsure of exactly how much was needed.

“A little more, dear,” her mother coaxed. “Then you do the same with molasses; only remember to coat the cup with a bit of oil so the molasses won’t stick.”

“Then what, Mama?”

“Then remember to use a bit more molasses than sugar. I fill the cup to where it just starts to flow over the chip. Now we add the spices – never use powdered.”

First they noticed the spark of orange peel, then the bite of ginger, followed by the warmth of cinnamon being grated. Lizzie’s mother helped her gauge how much was needed as the girl dumped each into the pot. Next they crushed the cloves and cardamom. The aroma was exotic but even as the mixture came to a boil on the stove, it was nothing like what seeped out of the oven as the gingerbread baked.

After boiling the sugars and spices, they added butter and allowed the mix to cool before adding some whipping cream. Finally, sifted flour and baking soda and eggs were added to form dough.

“Then we have to let it sit in a cold place,” Mom instructed. “Overnight if you can’t wait, but a week is much better.”

Lizzie’s mother leaned forward slowly inhaling the exotic, pungent aroma. She returned to her normal posture allowing the memories to wash over her. Her lips drew back in a contented smile. “It’s good to see you, Lizzie.” She reached out to kiss her daughter.

“Merry Christmas, Mama.”

2011 Happy Holiday Challenge Guidelines