...but it took a while to get there.
I had all the ingredients and the equipment set out, the recipe in front of me, had mixed all the dry ingredients—and then noticed the light shining in the wine bottle. There was something on the surface of the wine. It looked...oily. Eh? Opened the bottle and sniffed.
Okay, I'm a total wine dork. My paternal grandfather used to say I wasn't really Italian because I didn't like pepper or wine. Frankly, unless it's a sweet wine or sangria, it all tastes sour to me. Wine is to cook with (and not those nasty cooking wines, either). But this didn't smell right, either.
Now, it's tough being Italian in Georgia. In Rhode Island I could have popped in the car and driven to any liquor store (never mind driven up to the State Line Liquor stores in New Hampshire over leaf-peeping weekends) and found hearty burgundy wine. I called three liquor stores close to the house and none of them had it. Even worse, one was a wine store and the clerk had never heard of hearty burgundy wine. One clerk at a liquor store thought I was looking for a brand name ("Hardy").
Sigh. Good thing I hadn't started pre-heating the oven.
So I headed out into cold, miserable, mucky, grey weather (it was so dark the outdoor lights were on all day, a perpetual "dusk"), on the way to Harry's Farmer's Market, which was the only place I knew I might find it. (You can use regular burgundy, but it doesn't have the rich taste, nor does it turn the dough a proper color. Hearty burgundy is the closest I can come to my dad's father's wine, which was so dark it almost looked like grape juice. He had a "cold room" wine cellar off the basement and pressed his own grapes.) On the way, I noticed the big liquor store on Delk Road, Mink's. So I stopped there.
Again, the first clerk I talked to didn't know what I was talking about. Apparently there is an Australian brand of wine called "Hardy's"! I had to write down "hearty burgundy" for him ("hearty"—"hearty"; it's an adjective that means "strong"), and he went to ask the manager, who knew exactly what I was talking about. And there he found the nice bottle of Gallo and I went home, only an hour behind.
I had the SiriusXM Holiday Pops channel on all afternoon, and they were playing nice choral carols, like something you might have heard on the radio in the 1930s. I made two batches of wine biscuits (about 75; I lost count when I was putting them in the bowl). I make them now in mom's big green and patterned mixing bowl; it's a sweet tie to the past. By the time the second batch was ready to go in the oven, the first batch was ready to come out.
I had almost forgotten to eat and then all I had was a sandwich bun and some leftover turkey broth from a mug. So by the time I got the second batch I was exceedingly lightheaded and I went downstairs twice looking for the old cigar box Mom kept her recipes in when it was sitting right smack in back of the loveseat in my craft room under my nose.
I decided to try Mom's almond bars again. I made some last year and the batter was very sticky and I used almond extract, which was too strong. This year I used the Splenda baking mix sweetener and was expecting the dough to be very sticky again. Instead it was dry. I added a tiny bit more oil to it, then gave up and added, like I did last year, the rest of the egg mixture that I used to glaze the top of the wine biscuits. And before I shaped the dough I spread some canola oil on my hands so it wouldn't stick!
The little dough loaves shaped perfectly this time and baked nicely.
So now the table is set with Christmas cheer and Christmas food. And the house smells like cookies, smells like memories—smells like Christmas.
(Followed by soup for supper and then by a doubleheader of Dickens: Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol and Mickey's Christmas Carol, and now The Small One...braced for tears...)