Every December, my mother led the cookie and candy-making brigade in our kitchen so we’d end up with plates of chocolate and butter flavored glee to enjoy and share for Christmas. Who remembers pulling taffy? Using a cookie press? Patiently watching the temperature rise in a candy thermometer? Warm, childhood memories for me.
Last week, I swung into final preparations for a neighborhood get-together we were hosting Saturday afternoon. Nothing fancy, just a drop-in for cookies and drinks.
But on Thursday morning, I woke with the thought that I hadn’t baked enough cookies and the arrangement of the plate would not be “Christmassy” enough. Anyone else ever get plagued by second guessing? I’d really like to re-gift that, so if you don’t have enough self-doubt, let me know and I’ll tie a pretty bow on it and send it your way.
I hunted through my mother’s old recipe cards and when I came across the one for divinity, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. It was a holiday standard! And I could color it pink! Oh, the plate would look festive.
Sugar, corn syrup, water. Cook until a hard ball stage. I scoured the drawer – three meat thermometers, but no candy thermometer. No problem. I had this figured out. In the meantime, I beat the egg whites until stiff. Easy.
I still don’t know how long it takes to cook to the hard ball stage because at some point, I quit. Making divinity was taking an eternity! I slowly poured the hot syrup into my egg whites and beat accordingly (forever), adding the vanilla and food coloring. “It may get too stiff for the mixer” the recipe said. It never got stiff, and I wanted my morning back. Further, my mixer was worth more than an attractive plate.
I poured the goo into a cake pan lined with wax paper where it laid like a pink blob. Fortunately, I held back on the pecans – I wasn’t wasting those. A day later, I tasted it. Blah but sweet, with the consistency of a marshmallow. Aha! I rolled little balls of the stuff in pink sugar and tried to pass it off as candy. It really did add some color to the cookie plate, and my heart rejoiced when Lennie, from eight condos down, picked one up and said “Is this divinity?”
The lesson in all of this? While I was fussing about having enough cookies, cheeses and spreads, deciding which sparkling juices and wines, and making sure the house was decorated just right, I was again, reminded none of that is important. No one cares if the plate looks pretty, no one cares that there was a sixth choice of a sugar-laden sweet, no one cares that earlier that morning, we’d made a last-minute dash for more cheese.
What people care about is being together, knowing their neighbors, sharing memories while making new ones, and taking a couple hours away from the stress, or loneliness of their holidays. That’s worth more than any divinity could provide, but it feels like it took an eternity to figure that out.