On Wednesday night, I broke my own rule of no Christmas music before December 1st. Perhaps it was because the particular meal I was making really put me in the holiday spirit, or maybe it was just that I really wanted to hear this one song and I figured, if I’m going to do one, why not do a whole playlist?
I was making dinner for a belated Dan’s birthday celebration. It had been cold and rainy, and I’d spent the day driving into the suburbs to buy his gift and run a few other errands and stop by Trader Joe’s while I was out. I managed to drop my keys while I was in one store and stood out in the pouring rain rooting through my seemingly bottomless purse before coming to the realization that I must have lost them somewhere inside. There they were on the floor below the rack where I’d found Dan’s present–a black Columbia jacket that would look professional but help keep him warm and dry as he traipses about the future baseball fields of small town America. I was soaked and angry and felt like a moron, but hated myself for feeling that way because who cares? Sometimes people drop their keys. From there, it become one of those days that cold, rainy days always tend to be: everything nips at your last nerve, nothing seems to go smoothly or quickly, and by the end of it you just want to crawl into bed, pull the covers up to your chin and watch movies while you listen to the rain plink against the windows.
But there were no movies and warm bed for me; I had cooking to do. Thankfully, it was warm cooking. Wonderful cooking. The kind of cooking that you can only do when it is dreary and unpleasant outside. The kind of cooking that fills your home with the sweet scents of fall and makes you feel cozy and peaceful. That’s why I put on the Christmas music. It must be. The smell of acorn squash baked with brown sugar and maple syrup filled the air around me and I longed to be transported back to my mother’s kitchen where we used to play Christmas cassettes while preparing holiday meals.
There’s something almost meditative about preparing a meal. There’s so much purposefulness and dedicated action. It was just baked acorn squash. Just a side of wild rice with toasted almonds and chopped fresh cranberries. A starter of baguette with goat cheese spread and chopped pears. It was a simple meal really; all of the elements I had more or less made sometime in the past and I just tweaked them now to suit my tastes for the evening. But there was something about the preparation, about how warm and inviting the kitchen smelled, and how much that contrasted with the cold frustration of the earlier part of the day that made me feel so wonderfully at peace. And so ready for the holidays.