Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Biltmore Delights

Fun fact: I worked at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC as a tour guide for six months right after graduate school.

The bulk of my employment was over the Christmas holiday, which begins around September and ends December 31. During Christmas, the estate is decorated with over thirty trees and Christmas carols are played from the organ loft throughout the house as well as performances by live entertainers. Fresh greens and winter flowers deck the halls, and the banquet hall has a live decorated tree that is bigger than the White House's Christmas tree. I loved watching house-keeping decorate the estate, and loved helping whenever I could. (A highlight was once helping put out all the candles that had been lit for the Biltmore Christmas Candle tour! I loved being able to climb on step stools and careful put out a burning flame that was perched on top of tables strategically littered with priceless antiques.)

Yet, the best part of working at Biltmore during Christmas was the delicious seasonal treats, mainly the pumpkin roll. While I only worked at Biltmore for one holiday season, now when Christmas comes around, I begin incisively talking about the pumpkin roll. Trae and I went to Biltmore Saturday to see the estate and get season passes, and after walking through the house, I made a direct path to the bakery. Sadly, the pumpkin roll season had passed, and I am left craving the fluffy cake with cream cheese filling for a whole year!

I missed my family a lot during the holiday season I worked for Biltmore; I missed the smells of Mom baking, having time to prepare my own Christmas delights, and seeing my extended family. Yet when I took a bite of pumpkin roll from the bakery and took a sip of the strong coffee in my refillable Biltmore mug, I could close my eyes and pretend I was at home or, at the very least, a Biltmore Estate guest. My habit became to get a pumpkin roll once a week during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which was huge treat considering the expense of living in Asheville! (I never worried about the waist-line side effects, because as a tour guide, I could walk anywhere from 8 to 10 miles a day within the house. I even wore the heel off of an expensive "never-wear-out" brand of shoes.)

It is odd how something that helped me cope with the absence of my family has become a part of my holiday tradition despite only working at Biltmore for six months. I also haven't had the pumpkin roll in probably about three years, yet the comfort the pumpkin roll gave me during that time of employment still lingers with me. I was single, venturing out, truly alone, for the first time in my life. Yes, my family was still supportive of me, but this job and the move that got me to Asheville, NC was real step in adulthood. The holiday season had to be adapted and I had to make my own traditions. Times change and so do what holidays represent and how we celebrate them. I have infused old traditions with new ones, and now that I am married, I am making even more new traditions with my husband. I look forward to see what traditions and memories we make throughout the year, and I hope trips to Biltmore Estate becomes one of those traditions.

Parting Random Musings: After missing out on my pumpkin roll yet again, I was driven to do an internet search, I found the Biltmore pumpkin roll recipe along with other recipes on the Biltmore Estate website. I note a few differences (mainly the toffee garnish), but over all I cannot wait to give this recipe a try!

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