Sunday 3 December 2023

A Spoonful of Cinnamon (Helps the Memories Go Down) by Kendra Jackson, freshly made egg nog

Sarah turned the pages of the cookbook to the recipe for a Christmas cake and used her 1kg dumbbell to hold it open at the list of ingredients.  The irony of her bookmark wasn’t lost on her.  Once she’d finished baking the massive amount of calories, the dumbbell would be retired to its more traditional use, in her house anyway, as a door stop.


‘Raisins, cherries, nutmeg, mixed spice.’  She rattled off the ingredients to herself as she lifted the large shopping bags onto her worktop.  ‘Eggs are in the fridge, flour in the cupboard, and whiskey is in the jar.’  She laughed to herself. 


‘You should have taken the eggs out of the fridge before now,’ her mother said.  ‘Now you’ll have to wait until they get to room temperature before using them.’


‘That would be the case,’ said Sarah as she rummaged in the lowest drawer of her kitchen unit.  ‘If I was planning on baking the cake today.’  A hand blender, a muffin tin, and a Pyrex roasting dish (with matching lid) were taken out before she finally located the round tin with its most useful spring release.  Reloading the drawer with all the other ‘once a year or less’ used items she kicked it shut.


‘What do you mean, you’re not baking the cake today?’ asked her mother.  ‘You know that’s why I’m here.’


‘I am not ‘baking’ the cake today,’ said Sarah as she put the tin down on the table with maybe a little more force than was strictly necessary.  ‘Today is for soaking in alcohol…the fruit that is, not me.’  Although give me another hour with your backseat baking, she added to herself, and who knows?

‘Dried fruit, zest and juice, a grated apple, mixed spice, and cinnamon.  A few other bits and pieces and then soak them overnight in whiskey.’


Sarah’s mother sniffed a bit disdainfully, ‘In my day, we just threw everything into the bowl and mixed away.’

‘Yes, but in your day, you were baking a dozen cakes for the season and wouldn’t have had enough bowls to soak everything.’

‘We could have used the bathtub.’ 


Sarah laughed with her.  ‘Your cakes were wonderful, and I’m not just saying that because of all the icing.  But the smell of them through the house.  It always reminds me of Christmases growing up when I take mine out of the oven.’


‘Even though you don’t actually like fruit cake and are only doing it for the tradition?’


Sarah ignored the comment as she laid out the ingredients in the order they were listed.  ‘Golden syrup, vanilla essence, mixed spice and cinnamon…’  Her voice trailed off and she searched through the shopping bags, emptying out the ingredients onto the table.  A bag of brown sugar ended up on the floor, but luckily didn’t split. 

‘Cinnamon…there’s no cinnamon, why is there no cinnamon?  I’m sure it was on the list!’

‘You have nutmeg there,’ her mother pointed out.  ‘You can just use it instead.’

‘That’s not the way the recipe goes,’ Sarah snapped.  ‘I can’t change the ingredients.’

‘You’ve already changed the method, why not skip an ingredient or two?’

‘It’s not the same.  It has to be perfect.’ 

‘No, it doesn’t.  That’s what the icing is for.’


Sarah’s face lit up.  ‘Maybe I still have the jar from last year.’  She could feel the smug look on her mother’s face, ‘Yes, because I’m a hoarder and don’t clear my cupboards often enough.’ 


‘Did I say anything?’ muttered Sarah’s mother under her breath.


It was now time for another search, but Sarah knew exactly where the cinnamon would be if the cinnamon was to be.  And less than a minute later, she had the jar in her hand.  The jar that had a best before date of six months earlier.  ‘Spices don’t go off?’ she asked her mother, hopefully.

Her mother shrugged, ‘Don’t look at me.  I baked so often that nothing had a chance to go off.  But cooking will kill any germs.  Well, those that you haven’t drowned in whiskey.’


Sarah opened the lid and sniffed it gingerly (or rather cinnamonly, she thought with a wry smile).  It smelled…well it smelled spicy, that was all she all she could say about it, since she didn’t really make a habit of smelling spices.  With a shrug, she replaced the lid.  ‘If I double up on the amount it should be okay,’ she said, trying to convince herself as much as anybody else.  She put the jar in its place in the parade of ingredients, grabbed the mixing bowl and set to work weighing and measuring. 


Reaching the final ingredient, Sarah added the required three tablespoons of whiskey, and then another one for good measure.  ‘Well, just in case it’s going off,’ she said aloud.  ‘And now for my annual upper arm workout.’  She stirred the mixture with a wooden spoon that was almost as old as she was and had certainly tasted far more Christmas cake mixes than she had made.


‘It’s starting to smell a bit like Christmas,’ said Sarah, a little wistfully, as she covered the bowl with tinfoil and carried it to a cool corner of the house.  ‘But it will be even better tomorrow, won’t it, Mum?’ 

She didn’t expect an answer.  She hadn’t had one in over twenty years.  But sometimes, with her mother’s old recipe book and spoon on the go, she could almost hear her voice as well.


‘Same time tomorrow for the baking?’ Sarah whispered to herself as she switched off the light.  


About the author

 By day, Kendra Jackson crunches numbers for a living. By night (and sometimes into the early hours of the morning) she expresses her pent up creativity by crunching words instead. For many years, those words consisted of fanfiction under the name Cein/Ceindreadh, but now she's switched to original work. 
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  1. A great recipe story with the unexpected ending.

  2. Really enjoyed the gentle humour in this