“Your shoulder surgery is scheduled for December 4th,” was the perfunctory greeting from Dr. Kennedy’s office. My first thought was not about the impending pain and my own well being, or even the required four weeks off of work. Instead my mind did a quick calculation…December 4th….twenty-one days before Christmas, which left fourteen days for some semblance of recovery for my right shoulder. That would leave seven days, less than I would like but it would do. So my first question for the doctor after he carefully described the procedure for a rotator cuff repair was, “Do you think I can bake after two weeks?”
The week prior to Christmas has always been sacrosanct, set aside for one primary purpose. Baking, more specifically completion of Syv Slags Kaker, or Seven Sorts of Cookies, for Christmas.
Thirty-five years running makes for what what I would consider a fairly strong tradition. The thought of not being able to bake for just one Christmas lit an internal panic inside of me. As soon as the phone call with Dr. Kennedy’s office ended I got out my recipe box and my Christmas cookie recipes. I began carefully sorting through the recipe cards, scrutinizing each one. I was looking for those which I could conceivably make with my left arm and my right hand only. The doctor was comfortable with me baking as long as I didn’t attempt to stir or lift with my right arm.
Lefse? No, kneading and rolling are required.
Rosettes? No way. I couldn’t fathom managing hot oil with one good arm.
Fattigman? No, rolling is required plus hot oil.
Swedish Heirloom Cookies (almond crescents)? No, both hands are needed for shaping.
Krum Kaga? Yes! One!
Russian Tea Cakes? Yes, with help. That makes two.
Pizzelle? Yes, three
Sandbakkels? Yes, four.
Almond cake? An easy one. I’m up to five.
Swedish Farmer Cookies? Yes, with help. Six.
Spritz? Definitely not.
Oslo Cake? Definitely doable. Seven!
Coconut short bread? That would be eight…an even number. I decide seven is enough this year.
My daughter Jennifer had already volunteered to help me with some of the baking, and with the seven one-arm abled cookies identified my panic eased. I went into surgery feeling somewhat more relaxed knowing that I had a game plan.
My son Eric came home to help me at home the first week after surgery. That week was filled with a lot of movie watching and sleeping, in large part due to pain killers. After Eric went home I decided I had enough of feeling foggy and quit taking the pain killers. I briefly, very briefly, toyed with baking. Given my pain level any time I was up and moving I decided to wait. At this point I was still relying on Dave to help me get dressed and brush my hair.
Although my surgery was December 4th, the house was ready for the holidays. Planning in advance with the surgery in mind, I had decorated for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving. My favorite kind of Christmas tree has long been the noble fir. The thought of an artificial tree has always struck me as sacrilegious. This year thoughts of trying to string lights with one arm didn’t sound like a reasonable option. And needless to say, Dave was not all too keen at the thought of me providing him light-stringing direction. So I acquiesced. Christmas 2017 became the first year I decorated an artificial tree in our home.
House and tree decorated. Gifts “wrapped” in gift bags. All that was left was baking. I had Dave move my Kitchen Aid mixer onto the kitchen counter and my my flour and sugars onto the kitchen table, where they remained for the better part of a week. My Christmas cookie recipe selection proved to be spot on for a one-armed, one handed baker. Jennifer pitched in to help with the Russian Tea Cakes and the Swedish Farmer Cookies, which helped out tremendously.
Thirty-six years, Syv Slags Kaker.