XMAS17 - Christmas means baking for King
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Rachael King, General Manager of the Blyth Festival, is the keeper of many Christmas traditions that have been passed down through her family. One of the most important (and tastiest), however, is baking in December.
One of the few things King says she isn’t humble about in her life is her baking abilities. She can whip up some absolute masterpieces in the kitchen, she says, a skill that has been passed down to her through the generations.
When she was a little girl, King says she remembers baking alongside her mother in the kitchen for hours when the holidays rolled around.
Growing up in Fordwich, King said the schools always had a P.A. Day every November or December and her mother always made sure to take the day off so the family could bake all day. King says the family literally baked “hundreds of dozens” of Christmas treats that would then be distributed throughout the holidays. Whether you were one of the kids’ piano teachers or a family friend, there was hand-made, from-scratch Christmas baking with your name on it.
King isn’t the only one, her two sisters have also gotten in on the act, carrying the baking tradition into the next generation.
The family’s baking history didn’t start with King’s mother, however. Her grandmother was a fall fair baking judge and her grandfather was no slouch in the kitchen either, doing his fair share of baking in his day as well.
The holidays go beyond the kitchen for the Kings, however, and King says that there is a good chance that she may start a bit of a tradition on her own this year as a new homeowner.
In October, King bought a home in Clinton and, since housing all of the family under one roof has increasingly become a concern over the years, it looks like she may be hosting people at her house this holiday season.
Usually, King said that everyone tries to make their way back to Fordwich for the holidays at her parents’ home. As siblings have become more spread out, spouses come on board and schedules get complicated, it has been harder and harder, but the family policy is that whenever everyone can be in the same place at the same time in the general vicinity of December, that’s when Christmas will be for the Kings.
There have been times, she said, where the family has celebrated November-mas or October-mas, even September-mas, all because it meant the whole family would be together, which for the family is the priority.
King’s brother now lives in British Columbia and with King’s career in theatre, there were times when she would be across the country over the holidays, so it hasn’t always been easy, but the family has always found a way to make it work.
Once together, the King siblings always, somehow, find a way to stack themselves uncomfortably upon one another and take a selfie. Sometimes it’s a bed, King said, sometimes it’s a couch, sometimes it’s a staircase, but they always find a way to get it done.
There are some physical reminders of Christmas that have stayed with King over the years, both of which were gifts from when she was a little girl.
The first thing that comes to mind is a simple Christmas tree ornament given to her by her grandparents. King still has it today, she said, although she’s not exactly sure it’s in great condition.
“It was a small mouse covered in grey fur,” King said. “It still exists and it’s really special.”
She was only three or four years old when she and her grandparents went shopping for the ornament. So, while the mouse may have a little less fur than it did when it was first given to her, it still exists and has made the trip with her to her new home in Clinton.
She also has a Pound Puppy, a toy popular in the 1980s, that has stayed with her for decades.
King said it was a gift from her father’s work Christmas party one year and it’s just something she’s always kept.
When she grew up and established her own career, the toy would always be home waiting for her in her bed when she returned. In fact, King’s mother would always make her bed in a manner that had the Pound Puppy peeking out over the covers, greeting King upon her return home.
One of King’s more memorable Christmases was the year that it was so warm and green in December that she convinced her family to have a campfire for Christmas. The community of Fordwich is still talking about it, she said, for a number of reasons.
Not only did the rare Christmas campfire go ahead, but, due to a combination of a lack of space in the house and wanting to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather, King slept in a tent in the yard. Her sleeping quarters were visible from the highway – an unusual sight in the winter – and those in Fordwich still talk about it to this day.