Saturday, October 11, 2014

Music for Midlife: Bob Seger while Baking

I woke up yesterday morning craving these pumpkin cinnamon rolls, a recipe that I found a few years ago at the Smitten Kitchen site.  But it's clearly not a baked good that one can crave and have emerge from the oven in half an hour.  So, I put off making them until evening.

In the meantime, some CDs I ordered from Amazon came in the day's mail.  So, as I was putting together the dough, my spouse put a greatest hits compilation CD in the player.  I listened to Bob Seger songs that I haven't heard since college.  I was struck by how many of them center around characters who are struggling with the dissatisfactions and dissolutions of midlife.

It's amazing to me that this group was so popular with high school and college kids in my youth.  Of course, in my youth, I never thought I'd identify with these washed-up and out voices in these songs.

So, it was sort of a bittersweet backdrop, hearing those songs.  In so many ways, it was a delight--those songs hold up well, and they take me back to a happyish time.  But those lyrics also led me to make assessment of my own life.  In so many ways, my college self would see me as very successful.  But she would wonder why I hadn't yet published any of the novels that I've written. 

My college self would likely have expected to see my spouse, who began as my college boyfriend, helping make the pumpkin rolls.  It's amazing to me in so many ways that we've been together for decades now--and yet, my younger self would not be able to comprehend how quickly those years zip by. 

But Bob Seger knew--even as a much younger man writing those lyrics, he knew.  It's music full of images of "autumn closing in."  He knew that something as innocuous as the "sound of thunder" can take us back to a very specific time.  He understood the qualities of wistfulness and nostalgia that haunt us.

This morning, it's on to a different nostalgia.  I'm making gingerbread from a recipe from The Silver Palate cookbook.  I remember saving up my precious grad school dollars to afford the book.  I got a discount because my young spouse worked at B. Dalton--remember that bookstore that was in almost every mall in the U.S.?  Remember those sprawling U.S. malls?

Many of those recipes called for ingredients that were quite exotic in those days.  Candied ginger?  Calvedos?  And all those cheeses I'd never heard of?  Now I can find many of the ingredients that once could only be found in the big cities in the regular grocery store.

But I digress.  The gingerbread recipe had simple, easy-to-find ingredients:  molasses, flour, sugar, eggs, spices, vegetable oil, and boiling water.  It seemed fairly healthy as far as desserts went.  And as it bakes, the house fills with the scent of autumn.

We still have summer weather, down here in the southernmost parts of the U.S.  But the pumpkins and the cinnamon brooms have shown up in the produce sections of our grocery stores--a sure sign of the shift of seasons.  In the big stores, the outdoor items have been moved aside for Halloween and Christmas.

I don't do the autumnal baking for all the same reasons I used to do:   to warm up the grad school apartment by having breads in the oven.  But some of the reasons remain:  to note and to celebrate the changing of the seasons.  And listening to the music of my youth fulfills some of the same yearnings.

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