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Now, today's post...
Rose and I are making Christmas cookies this evening. I mean, they're cookies and it's Christmasy around our house with a nice Christmasy snowfall today. There's nothing especially Yuletide or Advent about the cookies themselves. For some reason our cat, Wonderbread, was prowling around the kitchen yowling at us. Usually she only does that when we're making bacon or something she finds yummy. At the time, we were cutting gumdrops with scissors. Not sure what her interest was in that.
But that's all beside the point.
One of the two recipes we're making is gumdrop cookies from a 1959 Louisiana cookbook - probably a recipe the contributor originally came up with in the 30's or 40's, maybe dawn of the 50's. I love old cookbooks, especially the kind that are compiled from readers' or members' contributions. The recipes are uneven, and they're often confusingly written, but I find that as I'm reading and following them, I feel a connection to an era long gone in a place and culture foreign to me. As Rose and I were snipping gumdrops with scissors I got the same sort of feeling as when I get lost in an 1890's cityscape painting, or am visiting a friend in their 1940's river-view bungalow. I'm not sure how to describe that feeling except as nostalgia for memories I never had. For a moment, though, it can feel so vivid and real, it can almost make me shiver.
As a writer, I don't do historical fiction for one simple reason: I used to try it - a lot - and I realized that I could never stop researching. In my diverse academic and professional careers, I've done major research projects in history, genealogy, archaeology, biological anthropology, and more. I'm very thorough and very good at chasing down loose ends and solving puzzles. That's great on a focused research project. It's a killer, though, when you're just trying to ensure the verisimilitude of a novel.
Times like this I somewhat regret my decision not to pursue that direction. Writing historical fiction would be a great way to dive into the false nostalgia and embrace it so thoroughly that I could present it to others and help them get wrapped up in it. So, instead, I'll bake gumdrop cookies with my wife and tell you guys about it.