Marzipan is a real challenge to make. It takes a lot of time and whisking. Twelve minutes to be exact, by hand. A long time over a low heat and heavy work on the shoulder especially if the bowl is big. But it's worth it. All good things are.
My son came home from college in Dublin. It is great to have him back with us and gives the holiday more meaning. A sense of celebration, a reason to push out the boat. We go walking together with the dogs. It gives us time to talk. To talk about everything really from his girlfriends to writing to politics to general affairs.
The park is quiet. Everyone it seems is out shopping. But as soon as we get out of the car we encounter a small boy who is intent on petting the dogs. He must be about four or five. I've forgotten how to gauge. He is cute. A hat perched on his little head, sturdy shoes, a warm jacket. His Dad hovers. I, being in a seasonal state of mind, ask him what Santy is bringing him for Christmas. He doesn't hesitate when he says quite loudly, a gun. I am taken aback. His father looks apologetic. Murmurs how everything is violence these days. We walk on, my son and I and the two dogs into the thickening fog. I can't shake the kid. I think when the boys were young I bought jigsaw puzzles and books, lots of books and legos and toy farms. What the hell, I say to the son home from college, a bloody gun. Is that man mad?
When we get home I roll out the marzipan for the cake. I follow a recipe. I wrap it around the rolling pin and then slide it onto the brandy soaked cake, cover it in a cloth to dry out for twenty four hours before I can even attempt to ice it. I think about all the fruit tucked beneath the blanket of almond paste, the cherries and sultanas and mixed peel and cranberries and raisins and all the other things I've forgotten because this cake has been a long process. Weeks of growing a cake to be honest. And I still have to frost it and decorate it and buy green and red ribbon and stick the plastic kitchy santa on top that I've inherited from my mother so many years before when she gifted me with her cakes. And I bought a wooden game of checkers to play over the holiday and of course we will have numerous scrabble games and we will conjure up words and dispute the ones we've made. But I could not help, in all of my rolling and planning, but think about that little boy in the park wanting a gun. Let us buy him a small plastic farm, a rolling pin, a small recipe book and in that book will be a formula for life. A simple method. A gradual combination of ingredients that come together quite well. Like turning on the lights on a homemade tree. It is instantly gratifying, totally simple and well, full of nothing only love. The only thing that ever got us anywhere like walking through a fog into the sun breaking into something we thought we would never see. Never to imagine was even possible.