Friday, December 24, 2010


She was always up before dawn, in the impossibly dark morning, with the clock ticking timelessly and me, surely waking before anyone else... She was up, and dressed, and busy in the kitchen. My grandmother Audrey, maker of mincemeat and meringue pies and peanut butter eggs and holiday dinners and grandchildren. Every December, she made "mints," pale green and pink discs that melted away when you bit into them. She'd keep them on the stone patio behind the house, in giant tins. This year, I learned why she made so many--one recipe makes a zillion--and also why she got up so early. I tried to re-create some this year, and was most successful whilst the toddler slept.

I had this to go on:

Sweetened/condensed is the only "condensed" milk I've ever heard of, so I reached for that.

To get a log-able dough, I had to play around with quantities. More milk, more peppermint... My discoveries were
a) I think she meant vanilla flavoring the first time she lists flavoring,
b) blending the liquids together first makes everything easier, and
c) even if it doesn't look like a recipe, follow it to the letter. Trust.

My grandma called me "Pee Wee," because I was the littlest for 8 years, and slender as a toddler. I remember thrilling over her craft drawers, examining spearhead after feather after button. She was a troupe leader, and mother of five--all daughters. Costumes and everyday clothes were hand-made. A pint of ice cream was shared between seven bodies.

This morning, I am the one up before dawn. I can putter, and make, and watch the day stretch before me. It's Christmas, and I am grateful for everything: quiet, family, materials, memory.



  1. oh lis,
    this is so special. such a sweet portrait. such a big accomplishment to have made the mints.

    i've been thinking a lot about the meaning of the holiday & holiday traditions because of your first christmas post - i'll come back to this one, too.


  2. I love she kept them in giant tins on a stone patio. I love the recipe is written on a Tax Claim Bureau "from the desk of..." pad. What perfect thing to do on Christmas morning.

    Most importantly - do you have any left over to share?

  3. You know what I can't believe? I can't believe I forgot to *eat* any of the mints the other day! Duh.