It’s fitting, I suppose that the year’s longest night brings a close to a stretch of the longest weeks of the year.  At work, we’ve been awash in Christmas parties ever since the weekend directly following Thanksgiving.  When all is said and done, I’ll be curious to hear how many people we fed; I’m guessing it’s in the neighborhood of a couple of thousand.


This afternoon I was thinking through a rough calculation of ingredients I’ve gone through this month.  The list is by no means comprehensive, rather just what lept easily and obviously to mind as I was putting together the next-to-the-last dessert buffet (for the week, at least). Deeper thought is completely out of the question until I’ve had some deep sleep in a new year.  Most days lately, I’m not sure I should even be driving a car.

I digress.


39 pounds cream cheese (which went into 26 cheesecakes)

30 pounds bittersweet chocolate (some became 8 gallons of chocolate mousse; I label it Chock Moose in the walk-in refrigerator, because I have to have little fun somewhere and I just love seeing the cooks give me that squinty corner-of-the-eyes stare, wondering if they dare challenge my don’t-f*#&-with-me look to ask if maybe I’ve lost my mind)

15 pounds white chocolate

10 pounds cocoa powder

200 pounds sugar

Strawberries –  several harvests worth

Flour, butter, cream, eggs – numbers don’t go that high




… turned into these

For a change, I didn’t have to get to work terribly early this morning.  While last night’s party was a large one, tonight’s was small, just 35 people.  Their dessert buffet was going to mirror that of yet another large group we hosted on Friday night, so much of the work was already done.


White chocolate cheesecake and peppermint bark


Mini cones filled with lemon meringue and with chocolate mousse

Hooray, I’d have time to get a 14-dozen batch of cinnamon rolls into the freezer, along with several dozen kaiser rolls and some morning pastries.  I could breathe.  I could drink coffee in bed while waiting for sun to (finally) rise.

I love the winter solstice.  Because, while 7:30 this morning bore a disturbing resemblance to 7:30 last night, tonight will be as long and as dark as it gets.  It’s all downhill from here.  The winter solstice is for optimists:  it’s amazing how quickly we start to perceive additional minutes of light at both ends of days.

Christmas usually finds me feeling very like the Tailor of Gloucester:  “‘Alak, I am worn to a raveling,’ said the Tailor of Gloucester.” So when the sun, such as it was, finally made a wan appearance close to 8:00, I creaked my achy, tired self out of bed.  I needed to get a batch of the daughter’s favorite cookies made to tuck into a package that HAD to get in the mail to her today.


A brand new batch of sea salt from the Camargue, so damp and fresh that I could feel the warm Mediterranean Sea on my fingertips when I dipped into it on this cold, snowy morning

Time being of the essence, I set them on the 20-degree front porch to cool.


Salted Lavender-Rosemary Shortbread cooling

Within minutes there was a rapid bang! bang! on the front door.  No doorbell.  Just a couple of rapid thumps.  Hmmmm.  I opened the door, and on the step just above the cooling cookies was a FedEx package.

Oh yay!  The cake pans!  A couple of weeks ago, I’d ordered sets of good, professional-quality pans and decorating equipment for my daughter-in-law and my nephew’s girlfriend, both of whom have graciously consented to do some recipe testing for me.  I had been drumming my fingers for days after having received an email confirmation that all had shipped, and suddenly here they were (I’d already let the ladies in question know that one of their presents would be late arriving).

But here’s the thing:  the truck was nowhere in sight.  I hadn’t heard it depart.  Heck, I didn’t even know FedEx worked on Saturday (UPS doesn’t).  Between setting the cookies on the porch and the bangs on the door,  a light snow had begun to fall. Yet there was not a single footprint in the snow.  Not one.


I’m not making this up

I could almost believe Santa had delivered the box.


On second thought,  Santa would have taken the cookies.

About thesolitarycook

I'm a chef, a cook, a teacher, a reader, a writer, a bike-rider, a dog- and cat-woman
This entry was posted in Desserts, RECIPES, STORIES, THE DAY IN PICTURES. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. suzanne says:

    OMG! I don’t know how you did it all, that list of amounts of the ingredients blows my mind. I would probably go through that much in a lifetime and you managed to squeeze it into this short space of time. Ok, so I would be totally freaked out, having that package appear, like magic, no footprints. Hmmmmm…. maybe there is something to this Santa Claus story. Happy holidays my dear you deserve some rest and relaxation.

    • The last party is today! It’s our staff party, and I’m looking forward to pulling out all the stops for people who have worked so hard to make good experiences for our guests. The FedEx man is a genuine mystery. Very Merry Christmas to you, sweet Suzanne.

  2. I love dessert buffets. The whole being able to taste numerous desserts rather than having one piece of all the same thing.

  3. lapadia says:

    Love seeing all your beautiful work, Cynthia; and I am sure everyone has enjoyed every morsel as well as the visual!

  4. ldpw says:

    It looks like you’ve been making dessert buffets for the Whos’. I love it.

  5. Cecelia says:

    What a lovely little surprise in the post. And OMG THE INGREDIENTS!!! You deserved the rest and coffee in bed!

  6. Beth F says:

    Rest up and settle in to enjoy the season. What a crazy time!! I loved this posts in so many ways … wish I could have a have a quiet hour with you for a cup of coffee and a few nibbles.

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