I don't know what it is that possesses people this time of year, but suddenly everyone thinks it's a great idea to try to construct a house made of baked goods. I overheard two suit-wearing men at Costco contemplating the purchase of a gingerbread house kit, thinking it would be so much fun to put together and display at the office. A friend of mine on Facebook put a kit together with her kid and instead of creating a memorable moment, it resulted in this status update: "Why can such a nice holiday tradition such as building gingerbread houses go so wrong?? ...grrrr.). I've seen several moms caving in to the pleas of small children, voluntarily putting a kit in their cart, completely oblivious to the torture they're about to put themselves through. I've wanted to intervene and tell all of these people NO! DON'T DO IT! YOU WILL FOREVER HATE THE HOLIDAYS AND THE SMELL OF NUTMEG IF YOU PURCHASE THAT PRODUCT! but then I think, hell - if I suffered through it, then so should they.
(originally posted on December 15, 2009)
I don't bake very often and when I do, I'm a big fan of pre-made cookie dough. I don't have to bring the butter to room temperature, cleanup is minimal and I don't end up with six-dozen cookies in the house. Yet for reasons that I can't explain, Christmas motivates me to actually drag out the stand mixer, soften butter, buy chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk and bake from scratch. I don't make anything very extravagant, but at least it's something that doesn't come in a yellow package with the words "Do not consume raw cookie dough" printed in two different locations. And by the way, if you eat an entire thing of raw cookie dough and end up spending a little extra time in the bathroom with a stomach ache, don't get pissed off at Nestle.
So anyway, back to Christmas. Every year I manage to decorate a fake tree, hang stockings, wind some garland around my railings, drink cocktails and bake some cookies. I never ruin perfectly good booze with eggnog, wear "festive" sweaters, sing Christmas carols in public and, with the exception of 2002, I never make a gingerbread house.
Several years ago, when Charlie was four, he found a gingerbread house kit at Target. Since assembling kits of any type are pretty much my own little slice of hell, I tried to talk him out of it, offering to buy him new Legos or cigarettes instead. Unfortunately, he was completely obsessed with purchasing this nightmare-in-a-box. Yes, I know I could have just said "No" and left the store with the sad child in tow, but for some reason I thought maybe it would actually be fun! After all, the box claimed that it was: "A perfect Christmas craft for the entire family. A real holiday treat."
Turns out, it would have been more fun to spend a couple hours exfoliating my face with a cheese grater. The roof with "shingle-like embossing" was cracked, the frosting sucked, the "sparkling starlight mints and jewel-tone jelly beans" were stuck together, and after seeing that our house wasn't going to be the whimsical palace that he had envisioned, Charlie wanted nothing to do with our gingerbread-flavored Habitat for Humanity masterpiece. I was about to drop the whole kit into the garbage, make a much needed drink and breathe a sigh of relief, but Doug made me put the damn thing together so he could make a video and laugh. So even though I may have built a gingerbread house worthy of condemnation, at least I was able to contribute to his holiday cheer.