Saturday, September 17, 2011

Swiss Cheese Bread: It comes but four months each year...

I was an intensely materialistic child.  I've heard some people say, reminiscing about their childhood: "toys were very unimportant to me.  I loved playing with my brothers and sisters instead." Beneath the sentiment, if you press them further, what they really mean is: "I did not need to cut the hair off of my Barbie and My Friend dolls or play Monopoly because I could cut off the hair of my little sister instead and steal her stuffed animals rather than bargain with her for Park Place."  However, I was raised an only child, so I lusted after material objects.

I awaited the arrival of the Sears Christmas Wish Book every September, around this time, with the kind of intensity that adults with serious pornography issues used to feel about adult magazines in the pre-Internet era.  However, while father's Playboy may have come but once a month, Christmas catalogs came but once a year--so my eagerness was probably even greater.

I was an only child, and although I criticize my parents a great deal on this blog, I have to admit they did 'do' Christmas right--early on, I was given a budget.  In a way, this made shopping for toys even more exciting, because it made The List so important.  I would first concoct a fantasy list, then I would narrow down the list. I had bookmarks in the Sears catalog on every page of the 'toys' section (I did not care about clothes). Subsidiary lists were made for specialty catalogs like the Snoopy and Monchichi lines of toys.
 Despite being slow to learn math, my brain grew quick at calculating how many small items I would have to cross off to get, for example, the Cindy Dream House.

Cleverly, my parents always inserted a mix of presents (usually educational things and craft supplies from specialty shops, which I also adored) from themselves AND from Santa under the tree, so the idea of having to stick to a budget and the existence of Santa Claus seemed perfectly logical to my young mind.  My parents were simply filling in, given that Santa Claus was tightening his budget with the stagflagation of the 1970s.

The holiday season is coming.  People complain that the holidays began earlier and earlier every year, but as far as I am concerned, as soon as my friends start baking honey apple cake for Rosh Hashanah, there is no point in ignoring halloweenthanksgivinghanukkahchristmas  anymore.

I don't lust after the coming of the holidays, now that I am a childless adult, but there is a part of me that wishes I was still quite as organized as I was when I was six or seven, color-coordinating my priorities with different pens and different sections of my written list of desires.  I still make lists, but they tend to be more ephemeral and wordless, or they are quite dull and read like:

Appointment with Ronnie@2pm
Paper towels and dental floss @Wegmans.

It occurred to me that I can't think of any major holiday connected with cheese, despite the charming Christmas commercial where a child is greeted with a plethora of toys, and responds when asked if she made cookies for Santa: "No, I left him cheese." My father was a cheese addict, but I would always leave out Entenmann's chocolate chip cookies and milk for Santa (and eat most of them myself) despite my parents' collective lack of a sweet tooth.   Even then I was pretty socially clueless, I suppose. I should have made my parents this instead.

Swiss Cheese Walnut Bread


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup olive oil (with extra oil to grease the pan)
1 cup whole milk
1 beaten egg
4 ounces of cubed Swiss cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Oil and line with parchment a 9x5 pan (note: this cheese melts quite a bit, so oil well to prevent sticking)
2. Sift flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and other spices
3. Mix the oil, milk and egg, then fold in the sifted dry mixture until well-blended
4. Stir in the walnuts (the batter will be stiff, so flouring the nuts beforehand is probably unnecessary)
5. Stir in the cubed cheese or spread 1/4 of the batter into the pan, add some of the cheese, spoon on more of the batter, until all of the batter and cheese has been used
6. Bake the loaf for 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.  Wait an hour before cutting. Best served warm

P.S.--oh, and Santa, I have totally forgiven you for that cheap paint set when I was thirteen. I hope you aren't too upset at me for not being sufficiently grateful for Smurfette and all the doll furniture over the years (it was really appreciated) and if you could spare a pony, some cash, and a new bike this year (preferably not from Toys R Us), that would be awesome.


  1. I can't believe Sears charged two whole dollars for the catalog! That would have been a fortune in 1985. It might even buy a record album on sale. But that blond chick reminds me of Potergeist. I, however, am so Scrooge that I get bummed out around mid-November when I realize I won't be able to go into a store to do a normal business transaction without getting trampled until early January.

  2. @MD--I know! Isn't that the creepiest cover, ever? For some reason (perhaps because of all of the toys, tools, and clothes we ordered) the catalog always arrived in the mail free. I only shop online (except for groceries) pretty much from Black Friday onward, although for kids having to use 'the Internet' monitored by mommy to Christmas shop must take some of the fun out of 'consumer kiddie porn.'