Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Baking / A Very Klecko Christmas

I believe it. i believe it with all of my heart, and all of my soul. The items you bake during the holidays can have more impact, more influence on a person than money, gifts or promises. I have known this secret for years and tried to be a good steward with it.
When throwing this topic out, some have suggested that cooked meals or even booze could compete with baked items during the holidays, but I'm not buying it.
You see most people like to use food as a time machine to bring themselves to a specific person,place or experience from a favorite period of their lives.
Many people have been surrounded by cooks or drunks on a daily basis , but unfortunately, many people don't bake, or get to be in the presence of bakers unless it is Christmas time.
Yulekaga - Stollen - Fruit Cakes - Mince Meat Pies, if you can replicate somebody's family formula, you will own them for life. Sure it will never beat their Grandmothers but what a responsibility huh?
That is why I believe that it is good karma to bake something special for somebody new each year and get it to them with no strings attached.
This year Debora Gilson worked with me on making top end British Fruit Cakes. This technology was somewhat new to me. We made a commercial jag for our Retail customers, but Danny Klecko also made a small personal family batch for himself and his closest loved ones.
This year he made a dozen loaves, and as he dropped them off to him VIP of VIP relatives, neighbors and friends, he told them...."Christ had 12 disciples and Danny Klecko has 12 fruit cakes, I am bestowing one unto thee."
When the recipents realize that they were getting one of your "Family Batch" you could see it in their eyes how grateful they were. I witness this every year. Often times the person won't even speak, as if words may seem like blasphemy.
This year I knew for months that I wanted to give one of these fruit cakes to the woman who runs the Penzey Spice store on Grand Avenue in St Paul. I don't know why my minds eye focused so hard on her, but I really love her and her staff. Their store can be likened to a bakers toy box.
When I went in a few days ago, I didn't even buy any spices. I just walked up to the counter and to my dismay....she wasn't there. I freaked out momentarily, but then I calmed down....I knew destiny would conclude the transaction.
I'm guessing there was like 30 people in the store, and 4 staff were out working the floor. Now when most writers tell you there is 30 peeps in their story, you can usually bank that there is only 14, most writers embellish because they hate their lives and feel as if they need to improve it, but you guys know I am kinda a narcissist so i don't need to pad my feelings right? but yeah, there was around 30 of them all checking off last minute items from their shopping lists.
Even though my friend wasn't in sight I asked "Where is Boss lady?" I didnt even know her name, but she has gray hair and speaks kind to me every time I am there, and her voice is so calming I almost find our visits therapeutic. I really covet my brief stints with her, and isn't that how you get what you want? If you are needy like me, you learn quickly that if you suck too much life out of a few people to often, you are back to being alone, so the key is to surround your life's routine with people that make you feel good.
Did I mention I was wearing my work uniform? Klecko shirt, tall white floppy cap, Red Wing steel toes and shorts (even though there was about 6000 inches of snow outside.)
So now the gray hair lady comes out from a curtain, exactly like the Wizard of Oz did and she smiled, but asked "Am I in trouble?"
Now all the people in the store looked in my direction, and I didn't want that, because I was prepared to embark on one of my years most intimate moments, and at certain times even Danny Klecko can be shy, but I didn't want a queer awkward pause so I just spit it out...."Like Chirst had 12 disciples, Danny Klecko has 12 fruit cakes made exclusivly from his family batch and this is one of them for you."
Now the gray hair woman stops, and her face was blank, after a second I deduced that she was choked up. I reached across the counter and handed it to her, and as she took it, I spun around really quick to get out of there. When I spun I noticed everybody (not most) everybody was watching us and about 4 strides into my departure I heard "Klecko" friend apparently didn't want me to leave, but I was scared because for me, this isn't just about her, it is about me too. I like to do this because it gives me a rush. My rush was already a little tarnished because as I mentally fantisized about this exchange, there was never a lot of people in my imagination.
When I turned back to face her, I didn't want her to ruin our joy with the old "they gave me a gift, what can I scramble for to return the favor". often times people will do that, and that rusts my desires. I'm figuring maybe the gray haired woman is gonna try to drop a pepper shaker on me, but my surprise, she just stood there, and then she skipped around the counter and hugged me real tight. usually people don't hug like that unless they are at funerals. I think I was really embaressed because I don't like getting hugged. It creeps me out, but one of the young employees said "OMG...I think Klecko is blushing."
I've always felf blushing is a weakness, but I have to admit. I liked it, I liked her hug it in ways that I don't know, so I can't really explain it, but it really felt good.
I hope in this Christmas season you will have a chance to make somebody feel as good as the Penzey spice woman made me feel.

Merry Christmas - I love most of you


  1. What an awesome story, Klecko. I couldn't agree with you more: baked goods evoke the strongest memories of holidays past. For me, Russian tea cakes and spritz are THE flavors of Christmas.

    And I also love the staff at the St. Paul Penzey's.

  2. Well, you're a regular Danny Dickens. Wonderful story, well told. I will take this into the new year. God bless us, everyone.

  3. There really is something special about home-baked gifts during the holiday season. So much of the season is so impersonal, but to choose what to bake and who to give it to really shows the receiver how highly you think of them.

    I just got home from the St. Paul Penzey's - I love them too!

  4. WOW - Pagel/Ode and the Monkey's a venerable baking trinity.
    BTW.....i wondered if somebody would toss in the "God bluss us, everyone".
    Nice touch K.O. - tx

  5. Love you, big squishy bear ~ Merry Christmas!!!