Cooking with Myra: Share your love through baking

Dec. 18, 2012 at 6:18 a.m.

16 x 9 Myra pastry

16 x 9 Myra pastry

By Myra Starkey

Christmas is almost here. For Christians, the celebration of Jesus' birth is reason enough to rejoice. For others, the parties, time with family and gift-giving are the highlights. But I somehow don't feel all that joyful, and I know there are others just like me.

On Sunday, our preacher talked about having joy this season, and he asked for all those who are not feeling particularly joyful to raise their hands. We were supposed to keep our eyes closed because he was praying, but I admit I peeked, and lots of hands were raised. There were probably all sorts of reasons.

I am sad because this is the first Christmas without my mother, and she and Dad had spent most of the last 15 Christmases with us. I realize that I have to move on, that life goes on and those of us who are still living need to do just that - live.

Friday, our nation was shocked at the tragedy in Connecticut where 26 lives were lost at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The saddest part was that 20 of these were innocent, little, elementary school kids. The parents, grandparents and families of those involved are shaken to their core this season and will never forget the event.

Most of the parents got up that morning, dressed for the day, dropped their children off as they hurried to their jobs and then received a call that changed their lives forever. There is no possibility that they will be joyful during this season of grieving.

It seems that all of us have to deal with the chronic bad news from Washington and our irresponsible government. As the so-called "fiscal cliff" approaches, we see both sides pointing fingers, and no one seems to be willing to offer any meaningful solutions. Nobody wants to pay higher taxes, and nobody wants their favorite government program to be cut, so our national debt spirals out of control. And our elected officials are afraid to act for fear they will lose the next election.

Our television stays on Fox News these days (since my elderly dad has been visiting for a week and loves that channel), and the reporters are speaking of doom and gloom. Actually, most all news shows are negative; it is only that different shows cast blame on different sides.

If this news isn't disturbing enough, don't forget the Mayan calendar which ends Friday, a long-held belief that this is the end of times. I had temporarily forgotten about this bit of doom until I saw my friend Ben dressed like a Mayan on an automobile television commercial. I really don't believe the Mayan calendar's end is any more significant than the final calendar page of any other great past civilization. I think that no one knows the end of time except God himself, and so I'm going to go ahead and make plans for Christmas and New Year's.

My nature is usually optimistic. I try to look for the good in situations because I have seen evidence that continually dwelling on the bad in the world doesn't change anything. It just poisons our moods and our perception of others. There is always going to be evil in the world, and the only way to conquer it is with love. All of us have something that we can give to others. It doesn't matter if we are rich or poor, we can love others, listen to them and show them that we care.

I have been thinking a lot about how to overcome sadness in one's life. We often feel down because we focus our attention inward. We dwell on how we feel and whether or not life is going our way. The answer lies in focusing our attention outward to those we encounter on a daily basis: our friends, family, strangers, co-workers and neighbors. There are many things beyond our control, but we can choose how we react to others in every situation.

Several days ago, I decided to make a big pot of gumbo. I started with a roux, and my dad and I stirred it for about an hour, talking about old times and how mom taught all three daughters to make gumbo. You just can't make good roux quickly. I made chicken, okra and sausage gumbo that evening for supper and decided to share some with a neighbor and her son. I had been in a melancholy mood, but visiting with them and feeding them warmed my heart.

Next, I whipped up a batch of peanut brittle for Dad to take back to Louisiana to share with his friends. I hope it lasts until he drives back home, except that he is constantly digging another piece out of the bag. I even noticed that he was having a piece of peanut brittle with his cereal this morning. I started to feel better and began to make a list of friends who might like cookies when I have time.

My sister, Cindy, called for a pastry recipe I have made for the past several Christmas holidays, and I decided to prepare one for our office staff in the morning, knowing that it would put a smile on their faces. It is so easy and made with Bisquik baking mix. This would be a perfect choice for your Christmas breakfast. Share your love.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail



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