Content to be alone in a field of untouched country snow, Robert Feldt’s quaint split-level home stood frozen in time—motionless against the empty sky and rolling January drifts, midday sun casting glaring white light into every nook and snow-capped cranny. A postcard image save the gentle stream of wispy smoke emanating from Robert’s humble chimney.
Inside, the house was warm with kitchen heat, and bright sunny rays shone through the green-and-yellow flowery curtains above the silver kitchen sink, reflecting light off of the bright pine cabinets and scattering it over the white tile and pearly laminate countertops. In the corner, a small grey finch chirped inside its eggshell-colored wire cage.
Nose still rosy from a morning stint of cross-country skiing, the elderly Robert Feldt ambled into his cozy kitchen, smiling, wearing an ecru wool sweater and a post hot shower glow. He strolled to the center of the kitchen, where he bent to open the oven and waft himself with wave of hot air, closing his eyes and wiggling his cashmere-socked toes with gleeful cheer.
Closing the oven, Robert stood up straight and walked over to the pine cabinets—three above the laminate countertop, and three below. He opened the top ones, reaching up with his wrinkly hands to gently pull the doors on all three.
Sitting patiently in the uppermost cabinets, a wide assortment of the finest organic baking ingredients stared down at Robert’s thinning flaxen hair. One by one, Robert took the desired ingredients from the shelves—a white bag of granulated sugar, a brown bag of whole wheat flour, a small glass shaker of salt, and a little jar of instant yeast. He brought them all down to the countertop and placed them next to his candy-apple red mixer.
Fitting the mixer with a dough hook, Robert scooped in appropriate amounts of each ingredient—mostly flour, with a few pinches of sugar, salt, and yeast. He put the mixer on low to loosen up the dry mixture as he walked to the fridge and poured himself some almond milk, which he heated in the microwave for a short time before dropping that into the mixture as well.
Soon, Robert had a giant doughy ball sitting in the bottom of his stainless steel mixing bowl. He covered it with plastic wrap and set it aside to rise.
Next, the filling. This part was simpler—Robert’s favorite was to use pulverized dates instead of the traditional cinnamon and sugar. It gave the finished product a nuttier, more natural flavor. Taking a bag of specially imported Medjool dates from the top right cabinet, and a food processor from the top middle, he ground the dates to a fine paste. Finishing that, he pushed the food processor over to sit next to the silver bowl of rising dough.
The dough would have to rise for some time. Robert sat at the kitchen table, passing the time with a newspaper crossword puzzle. Word games were his forte.
The minutes passed. By the time Robert completed his crossword, the dough was risen.
Standing to resume his place at the counter, Robert took the bag of whole wheat flour and dusted the bright laminate. Taking the risen dough, he dropped it on the countertop with a doughy plop. Rolling, stretching, dusting, forming—Robert made a long square sheet of dough. And when it was done, he spread the Medjool paste evenly over the sheet, topping it off, with an obligatory sprinkling of cinnamon and spice.
But then Robert thought for a moment.
Bending over to the bottom cabinets, Robert reached to the far back of one of the dark corners, where he found a short stack of ultra-thin rice paper. He tossed the stack over to the table near where his finished crossword sat, and went to fill himself a small bowl of water—placing that on the table as well.
Wetting the rice paper, he draped it sheet by sheet over his outspread, finished newspaper crossword, and let it soak for a moment. Then, carefully, he pulled up the thin, pliable wet rice paper as one thin piece.
It came off as a perfectly imprinted replica of his finished crossword—black squares and all.
Hurrying with quick, short steps over to the dough, date, and cinnamon sheet, Robert draped the crossword over the top. Satisfied, he curled the layers into a tight roll, cut the roll into spiraling disks, and placed them in a round baking pan.
Again, he covered the rolls, and let them rise, passing the time by watching classic movies on his small countertop television. The old black-and-white King Kong movies, to be specific. Robert watched two great ape features, then figured it was about time he uncovered the rolls and put them in the oven. He opened the door and slid them in, checking the clock.
As his experimental concoction sat in its convection box, Robert tended to the soothing, meditate task of cleaning his kitchen, wiping down countertops and washing dishes under warm, soapy lavender water. And the more he cleaned, the more the aromatic smells of cinnamon, dates, and baking dough filled the kitchen with their enticing scent.
But Robert was patient, and waited until the proper time had passed. But finally, he took his treats out of the oven. Setting the pan on a rainbow-knit hot pad, he wafted the buns to cool them.
Admittedly, though, Robert’s tolerance for staring at baked goods only lasted so long, and in the end he dug his hand into the hot pan and pulled out one of the buns to see if his experiment had worked. Juggling the hot roll in his hand, he held it up for a closer look.
It was perfect—the barely separating layers just revealing an imprint of black boxes with their penned in clues and answers.
Robert grinned, satisfied, and took the first warm bite of his freshly made synonym rolls.