Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas is a-coming

And we won't even talk about who's getting fat. Hint: It ain't the goose!

I don't know about you, but I'm one of those people who groan when the stores break out the holiday decorations on, like, the day after Hallowe'en. I look the other way at the frosted Christmas trees, and flinch at the sight of people stringing lights on their houses on Thanksgiving weekend.

My husband calls me a grinch. I prefer the term "non-commercialist." But then, last year, while I was writing my All About Us series, it just so happened that I wanted to do a Christmas story, and oops, the publishing schedule dictated that it would come out in September--a full month before those department stores put up their decorations!

Hoist with my own petard, I was. So I had to embrace my inner elf and just run with it. But I have to confess, researching Scottish Christmas traditions (this book is set in the character's Scottish castle) kind of put me in the spirit. Because under all the tinsel and the piped-in Christmas carols lies what it's really all about: family, close friends, hospitality, and--let's not forget--the birth of the baby that started it all.

So, while we're on the subject and you're digesting your Thanksgiving leftovers, what are the Christmas traditions at your house? Put up a comfy chair, have a glass of eggnog, and let's talk!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Baking mishaps with Robyn DeHart

Normally I'm the baker in the family when it comes to holiday feasts. Several years ago my husband and I flew back to Texas for Christmas and we got in late. I had sent my mom the shopping list for the ingredients I need and she assured me that she’d purchased everything necessary for pumpkin pie and pecan pie. So it’s Christmas day, mid-morning, and I’m all set to make my pies. I go to the fridge and the crusts she has have expired. Um…there’s nothing but Walgreens open on Christmas day and they don’t sell pie crusts. I can make them from scratch, but you need shortening for that and well, we didn’t have any of that either. So I opted for graham cracker crusts – not standard at our house for pies, but hey, I can improvise.

With the pumpkin pies done, I began on the pecan pie. Measure the Karo syrup, melt the butter, pour in the butter, look at the recipe again. OHMYGOSH! That was supposed to be 1 cup of sugar, NOT one cup of butter – I only needed 3 tablespoons of butter. Panic, scoop out as much butter as possible and figure hey, this is how great recipes are created. And it’s butter, how bad could that be? So I add the rest of the ingredients, then pour it into the chilled graham cracker crust, only this 9 inch pie plate is either mislabeled or something else because the pie overflows all over the table. So I salvage most of the pie and pour it back into the mixing bowl and try to recreate the crust in a larger pie plate. At this point, it’s just become hysterical and I’m convinced this is going to be the worst pecan pie in history, but I persevere cause that’s what I do.

So the pie is successfully in the reconstructed crust and I throw it in the over. It didn’t much look like pecan pie and it had a rather sticky consistency, but according to my family it was the best pecan pie they’d ever had – although being the smart alecks that they are, they referred to it as the butter pie. I can’t imagine that I can recreate this recipe, but perhaps I’ll give it a try someday.

But as I reflected on this amusing and frustrating experience, I saw the glaring parallel to my writing process. I read something recently where one famous author said that a writer learns to write a book by writing it. To which another author replied that unfortunately writing that book doesn’t prepare you to write the next book. So the fact that I’ve made a million pies didn’t necessarily mean that I could successfully bake another one. Consequently, just because I’ve written books before doesn’t mean that I know what I’m doing when I start on the next book. I generally make one blunder after another while I write my first draft, but at the end of my frustrating and (somewhat) amusing process I end up with a book that hopefully readers will connect with.

So how about you? Ever made a big cooking blunder? Did it come out okay or did you make a big stinky mess?

Happy Thanksgiving and be sure you enter my huge holiday contest.