The Post Office is still the most efficient and least expensive way to mail small packages. In the age of instant e-mail and overnight express mail, it’s nice to receive Christmas gifts that are delivered by the original Santa—Mr. Postman.
Yesterday was the deadline for mailing parcels that need to reach their destination by Saturday. There are two boxes on a sorting assembly line somewhere in Philadelphia today that is causing the entire postal facility to smell like a bakery.
With just minutes of shopping time remaining on my tight schedule, I ran to the ATM at 6:30 am yesterday and withdrew my entire unemployment check. I did all my shopping at the supermarket for under $20 and had hundreds left in my wallet for the beer I will need to endure the depression that always comes this time of year. The two packages were less than $15 to mail all the way to Pennsylvania.
A pound of Georgia pecans runs $12 in New Jersey. As I purchased the ingredients for the two holiday gifts I mailed off yesterday, I wondered how it was that Butter Pecan ice cream is no more expensive than regular vanilla ice cream. For an instant, I considered buying a half- gallon of ice cream, melting it down, extracting the nuts from the cream, just to save nearly ten bucks, but I splurged on the nuts because Shop Rite had Heckler’s flour on sale for under a dollar.
It took nearly a half hour to find fresh yeast in the store. I asked customer service where the yeast was. Fortunately, a lesbian supervisor was near the counter, overheard my question that could not easily be answered, and she escorted me all the way to the back of the store, near the eggs, to where the yeast was hidden high above on a shelf where old ladies never could reach.
Under the gun, with less than three hours before the Noon deadline for mailing, I quickly mixed a batch of Sticky Pecan Rolls, following a secret recipe that is in my copy of the California Culinary Institute’s “Cooking A-Z” that was published in 1990. Despite the fact that I threw away all my Anne Rice novels when moving to my new apartment, I kept that old cookbook—and for a very good reason; the homemade, hand-kneaded bread is infused with the zest of an orange, giving the buttery, brown-sugar and cinnamon rolls a twist of the old country.
Having read and followed those instructions many times, I felt like a fool when I neglected to remember the hours it takes for the yeast to rise. My buns went in the oven at exactly 11:30 and were inside their respective boxes by 12:05.
I ran to the post office with little time to spare. The boxes were warm on the bottom, and outside, in the rain of Jersey, I swear I saw steam escaping from the carefully addressed packages.
The rolls were baked inside a 9×12 aluminum pan with its own lid. I left a post it note instead of a Christmas card stuck to the silver lid which read as follows:
Warm in oven for 10 min,
Allow pan to rest on a rack for 1 min.,
Wait 30 seconds
Remove pan and serve on lid
The biggest surprise about my secret dish is the fact that the Georgia pecans are on the bottom of the pan. Before placing the rolls in the pan, I melted a half-stick of butter and sprinkled a cup of brown sugar. The orange infused rolls are what Christmas is really all about. I hope the postal workers in Philadelphia remember that this is the holidays and it is a federal offense to tamper with the U.S. Mail.