Real Cooking

The holiday season hasn’t started out too well here at Jost Farm. When I left work last Wednesday, I was not only looking forward to a four-day vacation from school, but I had high hopes of getting some chores accomplished, meeting with friends and family, and getting a start on our Christmas shopping.

And for a short while, it seemed like everything was going to fall into place without a hitch. But then Wednesday evening I felt my body starting to slip. I grew achy and my nose started to itch and then, well, it just went downhill from there. I was getting sick.

“It’s not fair!” I wailed to Keith. “I have so many sick-leave days accumulated at work that are just lying there, ready to be used and I get sick over a long holiday weekend.”

“You’re a model employee,” was all my husband could offer as consolation. “Why don’t you just go to bed and get some rest?’

And I did. But the next day I was up early to make pies for our Jost Family Thanksgiving dinner and it was then that I found if I used enough Sudafed, Advil, nasal spray and Vicks Vap-o-rub I could actually function. At a slower pace, of course, but at least I was standing upright.

I made it through Thanksgiving. I did sneak away from my in-laws for a couple of hours in the late afternoon so I could take a nap and re-up my over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, but I knew that the real tests of endurance were yet to come.

On Friday, I had an early morning “breakfast club” meeting at the Main Street Cafe in Durham. As I climbed into bed Thanksgiving evening, I had hopes that what I had contracted was a short-lived virus and that in the morning I would be feeling better.

After a restless night of coughing and mouth breathing, I got up and took a long, hot shower. If anything, I was worse but I was bound and determined to get on with my plans.

I’m assuming the food was good that morning at the cafe-I could hardly taste a thing, but the conversation and the camaraderie made me forget about myself for awhile.

“Are you going shopping today?”

I don’t remember if it was Becky or Donna who asked the question.

“Well, there are a couple of items on sale that I had wanted to pick up….”

After some back and forth, we figured out that if we formed a carpool we could justify a quick trip to Wichita. So after a stop at home (and some more drugs) we were off.

And the crowds weren’t bad at all. I think I’ve seen some stores busier on a typical Saturday afternoon. But by the end of the trip, I was wasted.

“Tomorrow I will be better,” I told myself. Yeah, right. Saturday was even worse with my throat growing sore and my voice becoming that of a 30-year-old man after a weekend binge. That was the day we had scheduled to paint the last two rooms of our remodeling project, and the kids started off the day by begging to put up the Christmas tree.

Somehow, I got through. What we now call the music room-well, la de da-is now a glorious, vibrant red and the adjoining family room is the color of nougat.

And the Christmas tree is decorated and standing-at least for the time being-thanks to my kids and their friend Suzy Lindsay, who came over to work on a social studies project and got roped into hauling dusty bins of Christmas decorations up from the basement.

The kids did a beautiful job of decorating the tree with red and gold glass ornaments, gold fairy lights and red and gold velvet ribbon. But we have a major problem and it goes by the name of Toonces.

Our kitten, which is quickly entering adolescence, can’t seem to leave the tree alone. She wants to bat at the ornaments and chew on the lighting cords and since she has such a penchant for climbing trees, I know that it’s just a matter of time before she gets the notion to climb the one that we have conveniently provided for her.

Somehow we are going to have to find a way to block her from coming into the sunroom where the tree stands.

We don’t want her to get fried like the cat in the holiday comedy “Christmas Vacation.”

And speaking of that movie, I’ve noticed that some families in Hillsboro have taken up the Griswald style of holiday decorating with lights galore. Be sure to take a trip down West Grand one of these nights…and bring the kids.

Schaeffler Open House, putting up an advent candle wreath at church, the Free Press Christmas party-my four-day weekend went by in a blur.

Maybe it was from all of the drugs.

* * *

The recipe that follows comes from the little brown cookbook that many of us are familiar with: Peppernuts, Plain and Fancy by Norma Jost Voth. It has become our family’s favorite, probably because it is smaller and more manageable, calling for just 31/2 cups of flour rather than the 15 cups that some of the larger recipes require. Anise oil can be purchased at most drug stores.

Mariam Schmidt’s

Quick Peppernuts

11/2 cup sugar

1 cup butter

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp. soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. oil of anise

2 tbs. white corn syrup

31/2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and beat well and then stir in corn syrup and anise oil. Sift dry ingredients together and add half the dry mixture to the dough mixing well. Then add remaining dry mixture and knead thoroughly. Store dough in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator overnight or longer. This helps the dough to season and the spices to blend.

When ready to use, preheat your oven to 350. Roll the dough into thin ropes and slice with a sharp knife. Dipping the knife in flour or in water helps to make clean cuts. The peppernuts should be about the size of a hazelnut. Place pieces of dough separately onto greased or parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for seven minutes or until golden brown.

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