It is the last day of Winter Break…one of the saddest days of the year, to me. Yes, we’re only several days into the year — but the return to routine, is a bit like a door closing on a season that is all too short; we are urged from every direction whether our faith community or the news — to slow down, be mindful, take more time with loved ones, focus on what is really important…yet there is always a reckoning day – the day we must face the reality of routine and accomplishing tasks and we march toward a myriad a goals to be realized.
My answer: one last gingerbread breakfast.
This may not seem like a solution to most folks that see cake for breakfast as a bad thing — I however celebrate cake for breakfast in its many forms. As a person that has worked through numerous nutrition scenarios over my now 50 years (I have the privilege and anguish to have the rarest of all U.S. birthdays, January 1), I can say that cake for breakfast has provided the mental buoy that I have needed to glide into many challenging days. For those that find themselves agape, with the horrified hand to cover their wide open mouths (the sugar! the lack of protein!), I’ll tell you this — the serotonin boost from the anticipation of a spicy, dark cake breakfast soothes even the dreariest day and does more to combat the cloying grayness than any protein-infused breakfast.
While I often make gingerbread from scratch, Trader Joe’s is the best mix available — as soon as you open the bag, the ginger symphony wafts upwards to greet you, and an immediate calm covers you. Now, I do make an alteration to the prescribed mixing instructions substituting apple sauce for oil, which adds nutrients and subtracts calories. At the beginning of the season, we anxiously await the release of this mix and this year stopped by several TJ locations (thankfully we now live in an area with many) to see which days the stocking of the mix would commence — and yes, we went on day one. Four boxes pretty much sees us through the season and so as not to take any risks, we buy all four on our “fist day on the shelf” shopping trip.
Gingerbread, and all its delicious glory and grace is to me, metaphorical for how this year will go — layered flavors, spice, savory but sweet, a respite. Gingerbread rallies our little team, its packable and mobile (unless you put cream on top), and it is the pause before a flurry of snow or activity. It requires that you slow down — there is no way to eat gingerbread fast. It is quiet, rich, comforting when all else seems to be speeding away and out of control. As light begins to creep into the day, it seems clear that rain is not so far away — again. But for today, we’ll start with cake to trick our brains away from the desolate color, the fact that the routine is about the begin in earnest, and make small plans to enjoy this last morning of freedom.