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Christmas Family Tradition – A Blog About Sweet Nothing

December 11th, 2013 · Tags:Satire · Wi-Fi


PING Pastry 4 sized

Always on the road, the cell phone has become my alarm clock. And on those rare mornings when I actually sleep until the alarm sounds, I grab the phone to shut it off and go straight into e-mails and Facebook updates. Usually, it is a great, positive way to start the day, albeit horizontal.


This morning I read sweet messages from two old friends. They liked something I posted on FB about me attempting to master my mom’s recipe for a family tradition — homemade date loaf candy. For Susan and Deborah Sue … there is more to the story … thus, a “Blog About Nothing.”


Mom’s gone this Christmas, but long before she quit dancing she had already turned over the cooking duties for holidays. And luckily, someone took over the date loaf gig. For several years, we had an SC … a substitute confectioner who carried on the sugary good tradition. But now we only have an XC … ex-confectioner. Sadly, no one seems to have the recipe in question.


So, I contacted an old friend who might have Mom’s recipe, and she gladly sent to me the instructions. However, the instructions came in two separate messages, and I was pretty sure all of the steps didn’t make the e-mails. For instance, the script mentioned boiling in water, but didn’t say how deep. It talked about bringing to a boil, but no mention of a candy thermometer. There seemed to be more vital information missing.


So I e-mailed the old friend again, and said I was pretty sure this was not the complete recipe … because “for instance, the recipe doesn’t say to add the dates.”


Well this old friend and I always used to enjoy a good joke … and I hope that was the intent of her next message. I stood by the computer anxiously awaiting whatever wisdom and experience she might share in great detail.


Dryly, she messaged this … nothing more, nothing less, “ADD DATES.”


Hah! … I found her response to be very clever; brilliant actually.  But it didn’t help me as much as I would have liked. So I did what anyone does these days when they are in a jam. I Googled.  I found a recipe that sounded similar, and it “called for” (as Mom always said when she referred to a recipe) a candy thermometer. I was on to something …


And by jove, I was going to have a candy thermometer if it was the last thing I did … I drove to the grocery store on Saturday morning … when the streets were icy and empty … somewhat treacherous for anyone who wasn’t raised in the true North of Texas … The Panhandle … as was the grocery store (empty, not treacherous). But I got a thermometer and “I’m not afraid to use it.”


That was the last point at which my little project remotely resembled the family treat. It sounded good on paper, as they say.


OH … I hope you will be happy to know that I worked Wi-Fi into the story. After I found said date loaf on the Web, I e-mailed the recipe wirelessly to my new Epson WF-7520 printer. (The WF is for workforce, not Wi-Fi … go figure.)


Epson Wi-Fi Workforce Printer


I digress …


The two Facebook friends had said they thought “Mama would have been proud” of me trying to keep those calories coming … but hah, I assure you … There was no pride in this gooey mess.


I tried once with the partial instructions from the XC and again with the Internet recipe.


Perhaps the most important line in the Google directions, I just chose to ignore. The recipe said to think again if the humidity was higher than 50 percent. Well, that alone may explain why this was our family favorite … in the arid Texas Panhandle. The perfect treat for humid Fort Worth? Maybe not so much. Well … at least I can blame my failure(s) on the weather. You may recall Fort Worth was under siege by a combination of dense fog and a 300-square-mile giant slurpee of a storm … total lockdown.


The next interesting instruction … after mixing and cooking at a high temperature the various sugars, syrups, nuts and yes, dates … I was instructed to spoon the goo into a “slightly damp, flour sack towel.” Pardon my French pastry, but just what in the hell is a slightly damp flour sack towel?” Well whatever it is, I don’t have one, that much I knew, and furthermore I was not getting back out on the frigid death trap that were the streets of Fort Worth.


Hah! I spooned the goo into my one cloth napkin. (Why does anyone have one cloth napkin? Some bozo left it in a shopping basket at World Market years ago, and I bought it accidentally. Been looking for just the right time to break that baby out.)


I digress …


So, wrapped in some sort of red cloth, my dates were not much of a loaf. They looked more like some unlucky Soprano wrapped in a Persian rug, for easy disposal in a car trunk.


Then this freshly Wi-Fi printed ordeal “called for” me to wrap the cloth in waxed paper. i did quickly and the batch unwrapped quicker. That’s when I let the farm boy force take over. And I kind of think this is what really endeared the story to some of my old friends. Yes … I secured the wax paper with duct tape. Actually, that was probably the only part of the entire preparation that actually worked.


And BTW, my good friend Amelia, what were you talking about on Facebook? Am I correct in thinking that you felt so sorry for me fumbling in the kitchen that you gave me detailed instructions on how to secure the roll of extra wax paper back into the box?


Yes … I digress …


I hid the body … er … stored the roll in the fridge overnight and broke it out the next day, believing a loaf would miraculously emerge from the wraps. It didn’t. My candy — and I use the term loosely — was kind of a brown puddle on a plate, with lumps. Hmmm … i would say it looked like something between a praline and a patty of unknown origin (if you know what I mean). OH … better yet. There is an item you can buy in novelty stores, used to gross out people in the workplace … do you know the one? It looked like that too.


Did I throw out “candy?” Hah! You don’t know me very well, do you? I used the first law of Texas desserts to save the day. Anything is good if served with enough homemade vanilla Bluebell ice cream.


Will I ever try it again? Hah … just keep an eye on the rising price of dates as I keep burning through these things …


So … anywho … friends … learn from my mistakes. “Dontcha do what I have done …” And remember two things … “presentation is everything” (unless the recipe calls for enough sugar) and “don’t let your date loaf.”


Know what I sayin?