There’s a little bit of fall in the air tonight, perfect for the official beginning of the season. When I was a kid, this would have been the time of year when our occasionally-functional window air conditioner would be turned off BEFORE it froze over, and the kitchen would cool off enough that we could bake something without feeling like we were inside the oven. My grandparents would drive to visit Grandpa’s sisters on the farm where he grew up, about 3 hours away in the mountains, and come back with bags and bags of mountain apples, which my mother, a Cosmic Possum if I’ve ever seen one, and my grandmother, brilliant home cooks both, would turn into applesauce and apple butter. I made my first solo batch at the age of 17, about a year after I figured out, hey, this cooking thing is fun!
But the most iconic recipe of my childhood, the one that makes me feel tied down firmly by my roots in a comforting, coming-home sort of way, would have to be The Sugar Cookies. Mom learned the recipe from my grandma, who got it from her mother, who had it written down as her “grandma’s sugar cookies.” So if we’re parsing it correctly and the recipe really did come from my great-great-grandmother, it’s definitely been in the family since before the World War I era, when she passed away, possibly even as early as the Civil War.
To me, the quarter and cross-quarter days, no matter what their primary focus is, all have an undercurrent of honoring the passing of the seasons and connecting with my community, past and present. So tonight I made a big batch of those sugar cookies, with the vanilla and cinnamon and nutmeg. I remembered the women in my family who’ve made them before me, saved out a couple of cookies for my mom and grandparents to eat tomorrow while I’m at work, and packaged up the rest to take to work with me. I honored the change of season by baking voluntarily during the day, an act that in my childhood home, which was barely air conditioned when it was at all, would have had to wait for this time of year. I honored my ancestors by being mindful of my great-grandmother and her grandmother, from whom the recipe was passed down. I’m connecting with my living family by leaving some cookies for them (and more importantly to Grandma, by cleaning the kitchen–this latest renovation is about to kick her ass) and with my coworkers and community by sharing my food with them. And, added bonus, spending the evening baking is a good way to acknowledge being OWNED by a goddess associated with the hearth.
All that from a batch of cookies? ABSOLUTELY. There’s this idea that our day-to-day lives should somehow be separate from our faiths, but I don’t buy it. Ritual doesn’t have to be fancy. I don’t think I need to dance skyclad around the front yard to affect the energies I’m wanting to influence.