Third Week of Advent

candleOnce a year, the kitchen is full of Mom. This mom, me, and my first mother-in-law, my sons’ grandmother, who originally gave me a recipe. The Third Week of Advent is the week when the year’s perfectly-sized boxes, saved in the basement, are set in one kitchen corner along with the saved box of foam pellets, accumulated over the year, and I pack the banana bread I’ve once more made for the men in my life: two sons, two husbands (one of which I’m no longer married to), a grown grandson, and our mail carrier.

When Advent was a penitential season, the third Sunday was designated as the day to relieve the fasting and rejoice. Gaudete Sunday, gaudete means to rejoice, gave the people one day to feast. The candle we lighted last Sunday glows pink.

My kitchen has rejoiced all week.

The recipe, hand-written on some piece of paper I pulled out more than forty years ago, lies folded in thirds in the back of my battered Joy of Cooking cookbook. I smooth it out, check the ingredients. They never change. The paper is stained and spotted, but the handwriting is mine, hurriedly written from one corner to another, perhaps I expected to transfer it to a proper card or something, and refolded and replaced once the baking is over: six bananas, butter, white sugar, leavenings, chocolate chips, nuts. Each batch makes two loaves. Except, for more than forty years, I have separated the batter, adding chocolate chips and after half the batter is in a bread pan, adding nuts to the second half. One son does not like nuts in his banana bread, the other son doesn’t care. If I make chocolate chip cookies, I do the same: half the batter without nuts.

I also make, and pack, the same oatmeal cookies, from the same cookbook, with chocolate chips, no nuts, seal them in plastic bags, and add them to the boxes that are mailed. The ones that aren’t mailed, the ones that stay here in the house, don’t last long. Which is probably a good thing.

Mary, my first mother-in-law, died twenty-five years ago, but she lives with me still in the kitchen at Christmas and in the chocolate mayonnaise birthday cakes which I make and which never change although they are only made for whoever is in the house at the time. They do not mail well. Another recipe, written on a slip of paper.

Last night, I fixed pot roast for dinner. My mother’s recipe. She died fourteen years ago.

One box goes to Florida, one to San Diego, the mailman gets his bread in hand, and the men here in the house have theirs.

And as I bake, I remember other times and other seasons. Mary made banana bread all year when her boys came home; I usually limit mine to once a year: white flour and white sugar and chocolate chips are not our usual fare. But these are gifts of love, gifts of memory, gifts of tradition. The mailman tells me his mother-in-law, no longer living, used to bake like this. His eyes shine as he tells me.

I wish you a season of shining memories, of feasting, of love. That is what we who are living can do: tell the stories, share the memories, and rejoice.



10 thoughts on “Third Week of Advent

  1. vivachange77 says:

    Wonderful memories. Food and family are a powerful combination. I don’t cook much now that I live by myself. I connect with your recipe in the back of your Joy of Cooking. That has always been my mainstay cook book. My church has only blue candles this Christmas. I missed having a pink one for Gaudete Sunday this past Sunday.

    1. Janet Sunderland says:

      Hey, Girl. I understand not cooking much when living alone. I didn’t either, for years… except I always had the boys to send boxes to! LOL. It’s pretty much a tradition now. And I guess I’ll keep doing it until I stop. Merry Christmas, my friend. May light and joy and wonder fill your life and bring you to a sparkling New Year.

  2. Terri Webster Schrandt says:

    Janet, I love how you combined joy with cooking and baking for the third week of advent. Wonderful memories you have and the idea that your moms are right there with you is so sweet. My hubby was just looking for his mom’s German cookie recipes and her handwritten recipes for sopapillas and empanadas (from her Chilean side). But I think you need to add my Sacramento address to your shipping group 😉

    1. Janet Sunderland says:

      Thanks, Terri. I know you’re off in San Diego by now. Sorry I’m late with this. So glad you liked the post. So did you try making the German cookie recipe?
      I sent a box to San Diego – my grandson and granddaughter-in-law. They called tonight. I shoulda had your address then…. so sorry. 🙂

      1. Terri Webster Schrandt says:

        Hi Janet, no, too busy to make (or burn) cookies! We head to SD on thursday. I’m sure your family adores those cookies 🙂 On another note, I wrote the first 1000 words of my e-book today (first chance I have had now that school is over). You helped me more than you know. Hope your Christmas is filled with peace and joy of your own making 🙂 ❤

      2. Janet Sunderland says:

        YEA TERRI.!!! I’m so proud of you. A thousand words is fabulous. I’ll look forward to seeing it. Cliff bought lobster tails and lump crab meat for Christmas Eve. No doubt we’ll have the joys of our making… 🙂

  3. shoreacres says:

    I can’t help myself. Even though those who remember the cookies are few, every year I make them again: Swedish recipes from my paternal side, fruitcake cookies from my mother (which aren’t at all like traditional fruitcake and are very good.) It’s not so much the taste that matters, as it is the repetition, the ritual.

    Every year I swear I’m going to make the Santa cookies my mother used to make: dough pressed into the cutters, to emboss Santa’s face, then the added coconut beards, raisin eyes, painted red cheeks. Maybe this will be the year. I still have her cutters. They need to be used.

    1. Janet Sunderland says:

      Swedish goodies! Ah, I never learned those. I always wanted to re-create my grandmother’s sugar cookies and have tried over the years with less than stellar success. However!! I just heard on a cooking show to put a cookie sheet in the freezer and after rolling out the dough, lay the cold cookie sheet on the dough to draw out the heat. Cut and lift to pan with ease! Isn’t that a cool trick! Hope I can remember for another year….. Merry Christmas. Have a great week. J.

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