The Magic of Giving
It was Christmas day, and I was covered in flour, sugar, and eggs. Today I was determined to become the Marie Curie of the kitchen, even if my kitchen smelled like burned sugar. There should be a Nobel Cooking Prize, seriously.
My grandfather loved sweets; when I was younger, he used to lock his beloved coconut candies in a drawer and hide the key. So, the night he lay dying, my cousin and I slaved away in our tiny kitchen in small-town China. At midnight, we measured flour and sugar, separated eggs, and mixed the right pigments to color the final smile on his face.
When my grandpa tasted his coconut macaroon, our pigments painted his toothless smile; when he took our hands in his, snowflakes rained down our spines. Five hours later, we received a call from our aunt; he was gone, but next to the cookie box we found a note that read, “Thanks for replenishing my energy for the trip.”
It was then that I fell in love with cooking and its magical ability to steal all the cliched emotions in the world and squish them together into a creation that can brighten someone’s day.
This Christmas, I baked for my friends, family, and for charity. As leader of the Youth in Action group at my school, I organized a bake sale to support the holiday gift drive for poor families. And so, with all those to-be-warmed hearts in mind, I scrambled around the kitchen carrying out my annual Christmas baking marathon, producing a sweet bread called panettone, which the Italian nobleman Ughetto Atellani had created to win over his love, Adalgisa.
I sprinkled my spices gingerly onto the dough that took hours to knead. I know it sounds strange to put spices in a dessert, but what better way to warm hearts than with a dash of exotic flavor in the middle of a cold, hard winter? After all, when I added cantaloupe jam crepes – which my friends had thought sounded disgusting – to the menu of my summer baking business, they were a hit.
There’s nothing better than watching rising bread. It may just be flour and yeast, but when you’ve spent hours kneading dough and mixing ingredients, watching bread rise is like watching your baby grow up and seeing all your hard work come alive.
Someday maybe I’ll be a banana bread and rise (hopefully grow a little taller) into an individual who is hardened by experience on the outside but is still soft and sweet on the inside. Someday maybe I will infect others with my warmth and give them carb cravings for life.
As I sorted the panettone into separate, personalized boxes, I smiled in the light of the menorah and realized that I had discovered the magic of giving.