Oh crumbs – Christmas is coming!

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Rock-hard biscuits and soggy cakes: when friends and family head to the kitchen before Christmas to knock up some festive home-made gifts – whether through overconfidence in their own ability or just a lack of better ideas – talentless bakers and the helpless gift recipients need nerves as solid as old gingerbread. It’s that special time of the year, when misguided love meets feigned joy, says our columnist Maria.

A matter of taste

TV adverts tell us that baking is an expression of love. And that might even be true in a lot of cases. But love does not always see sense. And the word ‘amateur’ suggests someone who loves what they do, not that they are skilled at it. Christmas is the time of the year when we think about what love means. No wonder we discover time and time again, especially at Christmas, that neither the love of baking nor love for the recipient necessarily leads to edible bakes.

Let me make one thing clear: I don’t want to play the Grinch here and spoil Christmas. Do you really enjoy baking? Because you do it for a living? Or because you like doing it with your children? Are people already asking hopefully when you’ll be making your delicious cinnamon stars again? Then crank up the oven! 

But there is also a dark side to festive biscuit-making. When ‘Last Christmas’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’  are blaring out of the radio and the doors on the advent calendar are counting down the days, otherwise cosily decorated home kitchens are turned into winter wonderlands under drifts of white flour. The huge mess, while loads of fun in the German children’s song , in real life tends to lead to outbursts that are not very child-friendly. If there were such a thing as an old man with a big white beard – St. Nicholas in the heavenly heights or Santa Claus at the North Pole – he would be sitting red-faced and sweating over his list, noting that all boys and girls are naughty.

Rock-hard biscuits and runny cake

For the recipients, too, the road to a moral faux pas is short and paved with over-baked ship’s biscuits. How can you say nice things about these without lying? With a forced smile and a strong jaw, you crack one of the dark stars between your teeth and splutter out the words: ‘Mmmm, dental care biscuits. How thoughtful. I thought they were only available for dogs.’ Or maybe not. One talentless baker in my circle of friends has taken to offering the recipient of the gift a suggested compliment in advance. Such as: ‘Look, my baked-apple cheesecake isn’t as gluey as usual. It’s super moist!’ Agreed. We ate it with spoons.

And the moral of the story?

Perhaps honesty is the highest form of love. Just admit that you prefer to leave the baking to the professionals and restrict yourself to shopping with love at the cafe or bakery. If you like to do things the easy way and don’t want to be infected with anything but Christmas cheer, you can even order online with love – if your favourite shop already has a web shop.

And then in homes up and down the land, people could sincerely say: ‘My darlings, I haven’t baked for you.’ Pause for suppressed cheers. ‘Your biscuits have been bought with love.’ The recipients answer with perhaps the most honest ‘Oh, thank you!’ the Christmas season has ever heard. The kitchen stays clean and tidy. And even the old man with the big white beard – St. Nicholas or Santa – smiles contentedly over his naughty-or-nice list. Oh no, hang on – there’s no such thing.