Monday, December 16, 2013

Stocking, re-stocking, and pre-stocking

This has been the weekend for making springerli, a family tradition handed down from my grandmother to my uncle to me.
Springerli are these wonderful cookies . . . possibly "wonderful" in the sense that you could be full of wonder that anyone would ever eat them.  They were designed, I've been told, to last for months, to sustain medieval German families through the harsh winters and cold springs.  The cookies do indeed last a long time, coming out of the oven as fairly substantial beasts and turning more and more brick-like as the months pass.  Generations of infants in my family have teethed on springerli.  By March, you will need a cup of tea to dip the cookies in, should you want to eat them.  By next December, the cookies will have dried to the point of being suitable for christmas tree ornaments (which is how many people in our area sell them).

The basic idea is that you mix eggs, sugar, flour, and anise together.  Roll the dough out, press it with beautiful wooden molds handed down from an ancestor who loved you, and leave the dough to harden overnight.  The next day, you bake the cookies, package them in airtight containers, and mail them out to relatives all over the country who pretend to be grateful.

And actually, some of us really are grateful for them.  J-son grabbed a cookie fresh and soft from the oven on Sunday morning and asked me wistfully, "can't I have a hard one?".  We love to share the experience of gnawing on a cookie with our incredulous friends.  Of telling stories of toothless children who could slobber at one of these cookies for hours before eventually disintegrating it.  Of finding a hidden stash of springerli in September that were still edible, once you worked a bit to soften them up.

But the point of this is:  you only bake them once a year.  You don't have to pull out the baking supplies over and over.
And so this is also a time of year to be grateful to my former self, the self who one year ago finished up a batch of springerli, but then restocked the supplies of anise and anise extract.  When the sticky-note advent calendar said that this weekend is the springerli weekend, I didn't need to run out and buy supplies, I just grabbed my pre-stocked supplies.
I love re-stocking and pre-stocking.  There are other parts of my life where it's a big help to start over just as I'm finishing up.  For example,
  • Suitcases are a classic organizational example:  what methodical person doesn't know to re-stock the toiletries bag as soon as she comes home from a trip?
  • Ditto for the "church bag".  We come home Sunday, and I immediately sharpen pencils, refill cough drop supplies, and hang the bag so it's ready to grab-and-go next week.
  • Since I run early in the morning and don't want to wake my husband with turning on lights, I keep a bag with a complete running outfit in it.  At 5:50 A.-dang-M. three days a week, I drag that bag into the living room and get dressed there.  I always refill it the moment I come back from my run, so it's ready to go again.
I've always wanted to do more of this "start-as-I-finish" with cooking dinner.  My hero Amy Dacyczyn describes how, in her family, the person who does dishes one night uses that time to get things ready for dinner the next night.  If I were really truly organized, I'd use dinner clean-up time to think about culling our leftovers, pulling stuff out of the freezer to defrost for the next day, soaking beans, or some such.  But the closest we actually come to this is that my husband gets the coffee ready at night, so I just have to push a button in the morning.  Bless that man.

And come March or April, that coffee will go perfectly with a well preserved brick of springerli.  Yum.

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