“Calling all Santa’s elves! Your help is needed!” came the call via SMS a couple of weeks ago.
As you may remember from previous years, my friend Colette runs her own bakery, known as Cakes and Desserts. She and her team have been hard at work, mixing and kneading, and stirring and cutting, and folding and spritzing, and baking and baking, all in preparation for the Christmas season.
You see, they make the most wonderful traditional German Weihnachtsgebäck (Christmas cookies).
They also bake traditional Lebkuchen (soft gingerbread) – under the tempting name Das Lebkuchenhaus. Normally, Lebkuchen is only sold at this time of year, but because of the demand, Colette now bakes Lebkuchen pretty much throughout the year too. And their Knusperhäuschen (or Gingerbread Houses) are absolutely to die for! Just look at these pictures – tell me honestly whether you can resist this?! Place your orders here!
“Lebkuchen, as we know it today, was invented in the 13th century by medieval monks in Franconia, Germany. Lebkuchen bakers were recorded as early as 1296 in Ulm, and 1395 in Nuremberg. … Depending on the region it comes from, the ingredients include honey, spices, nuts and candied fruit. Historically, and due to differences in the ingredients, Lebkuchen is also known as Honigkuchen (honey cake) or Pfefferkuchen (pepper cake).”
Once a year, Colette calls on all her family and friends to lend a helping hand with packing and wrapping of assorted Christmas cookies and Lebkuchen. It has become a delightful annual tradition.
Last Sunday, hubby and I thus headed down to Capricorn Park, the new location of Colette’s bakery.
When she first started her business many, many years ago, she operated out of her parents’ house in Noordhoek. It was a very large plot, high up on the fynbos-covered slopes overlooking Noordhoek, and there was plenty of room for a separate outbuilding, which housed the bakery and all the storage facilities. Earlier this year, though, they made the Big Move to Capricorn Park.
By the time we arrived, Colette and her helpers had set out all the crates of biscuits on large stainless steel tables, and people were already busy sorting the different cookies into cellophane bags, which were weighed, quality controlled, and sealed to keep their contents fresh. At another large table, people were folding boxes, and applying stick-on labels to identify the types of cookies, their ingredients and their use-by dates.
Hubby and I quickly found ourselves a spot on the production line.
For the next few hours, we were cutting ribbons into the correct lengths, tying pretty bows around dozens of little cellophane bags, filling boxes and cones with cookies, and making sure that everything was labelled correctly and looking pretty! The finished items were tightly packed into large plastic crates, to be stacked in the storage areas.
As in previous years, what struck me most was the amazing vibe! There was lots of laughter in response to some gentle teasing of each other, and an easy comfortable familiarity based on the fact that we had come together in previous years. People simply looked at what needed to be done, and fitted in, helping wherever it was needed. We had such a great time.
To reward all us Christmas Elves, Mama Gisela and her team had prepared a braai, with an absolutely delicious range of salads. There was plenty of food to fill all our rumbling tummies. It brought back very happy memories of the days when they used to run Gisela’s Salad Haven (I think that’s what it was called) in the City Centre. Ahh, those were good days indeed.