A Candle, Burning Steady and Bright

Archived | December 19, 2014 | By

Listened to the show Saturday, and it was not bad. Not bad at all. And while I listened, I threw together enough cookie dough to feed a small army. Seriously. I would guess 15 lbs. Just waiting to be baked, and I’m gonna do so, at my leisure, these next few days.

I make a lot of cookies each Christmas. The ol’ standards — cutouts, spritz, Russian teacakes.  And there is fudge, the family recipe, and some mounds bars and some cashew bars. And every year I try a few new ones. The mint fudge looked pretty earlier this week but I wasn’t impressed with the taste. Have a few more new things to try, and we’ll see. What I’m looking forward to baking most is the stollen. A Scandinavian treat which took Mr. Sundberg’s Aunt Erica a good three days to teach me to make.

I love to bake because it’s a practical thing, and it’s fun, and there’s an outcome which is generally well-received and celebrated and it feels good to share cookies and bars and cakes with people I love. But there’s something else. There’s a quiet that comes with baking late into the night, a kind of mindful solitude where, as I knead and roll out dough and slide sheets of baked cookies onto the counter and mix frosting and decorate cookies, I think about my life and the people in it and past times together, and words I would say if he or she were here in the kitchen with me. I think about every person I’ve ever met, and wonder about who is waiting down the road. I ponder the great mysteries, and think about everything happening in the world. I play music in the background, instrumental usually, cello and piano and violin, and I wear an apron. My favorite one, the white one. And there is, always, on the sill of the window, a lit candle.

The candle is for someone, every time I light it, and it’s been lit since Thanksgiving Day. When the candle is about to burn out, I light a new one from its flame, and for a while two burn together. I can’t do much to change the world. But I can bake for my family and friends, and for an occasional stranger here and there, and I can keep a lit candle in the window. Never know who might look up one day and see it there, burning steady and bright, and feel a bit of something good. Never do know.

With all the sweets floating around, it’s good to focus on the salty/savory end of things, and something with some vitamins in it can’t hurt. This recipe is from my father, who is a fine cook by my standards, and who knows how to season things just right. A good quality in a man.

Bacon Fried Green Beans

Green beans, one handful per person
2 strips bacon, chopped
1 T oil
2 T chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup almond slivers, toasted

Snap ends off beans and wash.  Bring water to boil in a pot, and add beans. Cover and bring to a boil; boil 18-20 minutes or until tender but not mushy.  Drain and set aside.

While beans are cooking, place chopped bacon and oil into a large skillet. Stir fry bacon until it simmers, and add onion. Stir and fry until bacon is done and onions begin to brown.  Add beans and stir fry a minute or two. Salt and pepper to taste.