It’s mid- to late-October, so it’s pumpkin spice everything, cookies, candles, and shampoo. It’s autumn baking, and it’s either Joni Mitchell or Santa who’s coming to town. I haven’t been to stores or a mall given the pandemic, so I can’t speak to the decorations. But, come Halloween, I’m always remarking, “So early?” when I see sleds and red stockings lining the aisles beside the candy corn. I sound like my mother when I say it, with her same cadence and disapproval. As if it’s some shocking surprise in capitalism these days.
The greatest surprise I’ve experienced this year has come in the form of my daughter.
This summer—having thought that I refused the kids video games and electronics, but clearly not, as this rule was broken outright—Abigail took to cooking and baking as a creative outlet. With Joni Mitchell’s “River” on repeat—no, it was actually seven seasons of Gilmore Girls episodes, with Carole King’s theme song—my daughter baked everything from scratch, no boxes. Bakery style chocolate chip muffins, at least six types of chocolate chip cookies (from oversized Martha Stewart Lexi cookies to Playdate cookies dotted with M&Ms to Food Lab Brown Butter cookies to cookies that required both cake and bread flours), lots of yeasted waffles left to rise overnight.
If you have a subscription to any music streaming service, now would be the ideal time to say something like, “Alexa, play ‘A Case of You’ by Addison Agen.” It’s a Joni Mitchell song, but I love the Addison Agen cover. I have a chapter in the book I’ve been writing with the same title. I could listen to this song forever and still be on my feet.
Joe’s Stone Crab Key Lime Pie recipe she got from my mom. Gooey cinnamon squares. She made me a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for my birthday, with golden raisins because I asked for them. I’m officially old now. Only old people or really young people who haven’t started to know any better will eat raisins. For L. Beckett and Phil, she churned Cookies & Cream ice cream. For her friends, she concocted galaxy cookies. For everyone, she baked snickerdoodles as fat as hamburgers.
We watched the 2007 Pixar film Ratatouille, which prompted her to recreate chef Thomas Keller’s would-be namesake dish, only it’s called, “Confit Byaldi.” “Whoever named that movie didn’t eat that dish first,” Abigail said after making it. “Uninspired,” she said.
Two types of vegetable soup, a buttermilk chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting—where she used way too much buttermilk, but we continued to eat it as we complained. Toffee, Parker rolls, Spanakopita triangles every single week with fresh dill and mint, Marcella Hazan’s simple but brilliant tomato sauce with onion and butter, Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies, and then she moved on to meatloaf, after which, she declared herself a vegetarian. Just as I had when I was in high school.
“We know, we know,” Abby said, “you were a vegetarian for nine years before you lost your v-card to a chicken nugget.” She knows my cadence as I know my mother’s.
I particularly love that Phil will now look at a recipe for something he wants to eat, and he’ll say, “I’ll have Abigail make the sauce.” The girl, now thirteen, is fearless. She’s even willing to make shit that calls for a candy thermometer. I told her I’d need drugs first.
Mid-October and she wants to start in with Christmas now. Setting up a tree, loading up the Joni Mitchell, playing the movies, baking the bakes and cooking the cooks, just as I had with my mother. I wish my mom lived nearer so we could do these things together regularly, make these parchment-lined memories, baked into layers of phyllo dough, painted with butter and tucked into forever. I wonder, do all my best memories happen around a kitchen?