I have been making a traditional Slovenian rolled bread called Potica every year on Christmas Eve for almost thirty years. It is a long process of making giant batches of dough that rolls out to the size of the dining room table and turns out baked into 10 loaves. I have been following the same recipe year after year, but still each year the Potica turns out a little bit differently. Some years the dough doesn’t rise quite enough; other years the filling isn’t sweet enough.
This year is an amazingly good potica year. The dough is fluffy and moist, the filling is perfectly sweet and not a single loaf stuck to the pan or burned around the edges. Although I know I was deliberately a bit heavy handed with the sugar this year, what really made the difference was the singular focus I was able to bring to the task. I have been practicing doing one thing at a time for a few weeks now, but in a complex multi-step recipe situation, offering your full attention is priceless.
This shift to being able to focus on one thing at a time is at least a little bit situational too. All the wrapping isn’t on me anymore now that the kids are able to step up and wrap each other’s gifts. While the Potica production was progressing- the gifts were getting wrapped. This is one of the joyful parts of children growing up. The bittersweet part is that all the illusions are past. My youngest daughter -now twelve – is reminiscing about her memories of the magic that Christmas was and the year she understood what was going on.
I miss making the magic happen too. I am left with making the annual batch of Potica, which has been the food that has nourished the magic for dozens of years. Herein lies the power of our food traditions. The mingling of memory with familiar tastes and smells is what makes us invent and reinvent holiday traditions anew every year. As kids grow up and on with new lives, ones that their parents can’t quite imagine, it is our shared memories of food that connect us through generations.
Although, it is irrational to equate a good Potica year with any predictions for the future, I feel compelled to make the gamble. It is easier and easier within a life won over by the positivity quest to believe that everything portends the best.