Friday, January 8, 2016

Baking comfort into our day

I have lots of fun memories of jumping on sleds to race down the big hill in our yard, constructing snow forts for epic snowball battles, and making snow people during winters while growing up on Long Island. I can almost hear the laughter and squeals piercing the cold air in our neighborhood as my sister and I played with our friends. But I didn’t love the snow and cold, I still don’t. So after a while, I was happy to retreat to my warm house where I was sure to find my mom ready to greet me with a warm slice of homemade bread or a chocolatey brownie, fresh out of the oven. It was comforting to know that I could relay tales about my adventures in the snow to my mom, while enjoying a warm treat and some hot cocoa.

My mom’s homemade cinnamon braid bread was a favorite in my family and, for me it always evokes a feeling of comfort. Something I especially need today, the 20th anniversary of my mom’s death. My mom died during the blizzard of 1996 after a short battle with breast cancer. So while the historic snowstorm buried New York in several inches of snow, my family was getting ready to bury my mom.

My mom and dad celebrating my birthday 40 years ago
A lot has changed during the past 20 years since I was a 23-year-old beginning to make memories without my mom in my life, such as marriage, the births of my two children, job changes, a move south and back to New York, various trips, new friends and family members, along with the loss of friends and family members, most recently the death of my dad in October. There have been many times that I wish I could call her to share in a happy moment or to gain comfort or advice.

I tell my kids a lot of stories about my mom so that they can get to know her through my memories. They also feel a connection to her through my baking. I have converted many of my mom’s recipes so that they are allergy friendly. When I make my mom’s pancakes, blondies or cinnamon braid, my kids know that they are special in addition to being tasty because the recipes came from their grandma. Now they are just free of the foods to which my son Joseph is allergic (peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame, mustard, strawberry, cantaloupe and watermelon).
Every year on January 8, I bake something that I enjoyed baking with my mom. Because baking was a hobby we shared, it makes me smile on a sad anniversary. My son is happy to taste the finished product, while hearing stories about the grandma he never got to meet. My daughter Pamela (my mom’s namesake) enjoys baking with me, excited to make the dough for cinnamon braid as soon as we woke up this morning.

In 20 years I have not developed a love of snow, but I appreciate the joy and excitement it brings my kids. And I am thankful for the comfort of an allergy friendly cinnamon braid that evokes memories of my mom on those snowy days so long ago.