As you read this, Christmas will be something that happened last week and 2019 is probably winding up. As I scribble, it is still a couple of days before Christmas. The winter solstice has come, the shortest day is behind us (not that anybody’d notice quite yet) and me and mine are smack in the middle of the Festival of the White Sugar as we host a feast on that evening as a matter of custom. Think back; last week was not yet the time for remorse about healthy eating. There is enough homemade egg nog around here to cause some real mayhem.

Friends who handle their nutrition like adults will be shaking their heads about now.

On the 21st of December, 17 pilots, freight-handling “line guys,” and flying service family members came out to Matinicus to join in the merrymaking, resulting in quite probably the largest air convoy this rock has ever seen (no joke). Six planes arrived just before dark, making to look like the Oshkosh fly-in at the north end, with a few folks who didn’t know the pilots were coming to the party looking up wondering, “Just what, exactly, the heck?” (I am sure that is how they said it.) Thinking ahead about the flight back after supper, Kevin remembered to call Portland to ensure that the Air Defense Forces would not be alarmed by a half-dozen small aircraft inexplicably blinking onto the radar over the North Atlantic headed for Rockland, Maine, at an hour clearly unrelated to the delivery of UPS.

I am tangled up in an unseemly contest with myself over how much dessert I can construct without sending loved ones to sick bay. There were cookies for the relatives, for the folks who work at the Rockland dump, for the ferry terminal, for the mechanics. The desk in the air service office looks like Dean and Deluca this time of year under the pile of treats for Our Guys from their flying public.

Between the solstice and several Christmas dinners we ate cake, three kinds, and we ate cookies, assorted, and we ate the baklava. I’ve made a lot of baklava this year and it isn’t even Greek Christmas yet. We ate the peanut brittle, and we ate the caramel corn our neighbor made, and we ate the goodies the cottage people sent in the mail for the handyman. We ate the turkey and the other turkey, and the ham and the other ham, and we ate soft, warm, heavily buttered bread right out of the oven. We ate the latkes. We ate the cheesecake and the pumpkin pie and the chocolate cream pie and the pecan pie. We drank the egg nog. We did not eat the salad.

In mind to contribute to the delinquency of others I offer a recipe. You should make this on a day when the kitchen chairs creak and the skin on your face feels like it’s a size too small. When people use onomatopoeic words to describe the weather, words that sound like branches snapping and ice crunching, like “brisk” and “crisp” and “whiskery,” that’s the time to make candy at home.

N U T   B R I T T L E

Have ready a large cookie sheet, well buttered. I filled an 11- by 17-inch sheet with this recipe, so if you don’t have something that big, butter two. You’ll want a candy thermometer, a heavy-bottomed pot with a handle, and a heatproof rubber spatula to get it all out of the pot quickly.
In a heavy-bottom sauce pan, mix and boil:
2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
12 cup corn syrup
12 cup water
Pinch of salt
Have ready:
12 stick (4 Tbsp.) butter, cut in pieces
1-2 tsp. vanilla (optional)
A pinch baking soda (18 to 14 tsp.)
112-2 cups nuts, your choice. Roasted and salted are good for this, in my opinion.
When the sugars and water are well mixed you can leave the syrup to boil; you don’t need to keep stirring. Don’t fuss with it; just keep an eye on the temperature—that’s what matters. Cook until it reaches 300 degrees.

At that point quickly stir in the butter, vanilla if you’d like, and the pinch of baking soda. Then mix in the nuts. Immediately dump onto buttered pan, and spread out. Place pan in a cold, dry place — like maybe your back steps —and it should harden up soon; then you have the fun of breaking it up.

A friend sent around a bit of sappy advice, but if you think about it, it’s just good sense: “When you feel you should be counting calories, count your blessings.”

Here’s wishing us all a quiet winter, with some snow but not so much ice, clear days but not so much wind, starry nights, and a warm place for all. Happy New Year!