Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Something to chew on


As December draws to a close I still find myself a little low on words. It's been a beautiful month of resting and re-grounding. 

It began with the ceremonial stowing of the suitcases after being on the road far too long. Laundry after laundry. Filing, sorting, tidying up my home and making my life mine again.


And then, somewhere mid-sip, I suddenly realized that Christmas was coming. Whoops. No time for nesting or relaxing after all.

Naturally, there had to be Claramels. You may recall I went a little overboard on these last year. But dozens of batches later, I still get just as much pleasure, if not more so, from making these things. There is something deeply satisfying in watching all the raw ingredients amalgamate into something so deep and murky and magical. 

Dark-chocolate espresso, with optional tart Montmorency cherries on right.

To me, Claramels are like edible knitting. They give a similar kind of tactile satisfaction - that of taking simple materials and slowly, patiently transforming them into something else. You have to stay quite aware of your surroundings, since you're dealing with 250-degree sugar lava that will, given the opportunity, burn the hell out of your hand. 

Your mind can still wander and dream, while the physicality of the work keeps pulling you back into the present. Exactly like knitting, right? 

And when it's time to hand-cut that sheet of hardened goo and transform it into hundreds of even little nuggets (each of which gets wrapped in a little square of hand-cut parchment paper), my hidden obsessive-compulsive tendencies joyously spring into action. I may not be able to create order out of the world at large, but I can sure force a tray of candy into submission. 

Right about now is when some people smile and gently ask, "You do know that you can buy those at a store? Already made?" 

Any knitter will recognize that question. I give the same answer. It's all about self-expression. It's about taking slow, patient, meditative steps that produce even and deeply satisfying results. And at gift-giving season, it's about making something with your own hands that serves as a genuine expression of your love, care, or even simple fondness for someone else. 

Only instead of wearing the results of this particular form of self-expression, you get to eat them. How great is that?


17 comments:

rosi-r said...

lovely postcard from Maine. However, I must differ on the result of your fine claramels. I am indeed wearing them at mid thigh ;)

Barb said...

Love the photos of winter in Maine. I'm happy that you seem to have the snow that usually lands in Michigan. As for the candy, I wear mine at the waist.

besshaile said...

It's strange to me to think that I have never tasted a Claramel ... even though the Claramaker has my address ...

hizKNITS said...

Amen, sister.

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

Lovely snow, lovely claramels. I like that you acknowledge your obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I baked cookies with son and his girlfriend last week, and all my "line them up like this on the cookie sheet" tendencies came out!

Your candy looks perfect. And delicious. Happy new year!

cockeyed said...

perfect snow, perfect claramels, lovely tradition!

JC Briar said...

“Hidden” obsessive-compulsive tendencies? (Yeah, yeah, I know: pot, kettle, etc, etc.)

Sonya Philip said...

Those are so gorgeous.

Sarah said...

I love your answer for why we love to hand make things

Jane said...

Lovely. You and the Claramels.

NutmegOwl said...

What Jane said. Furthermore, any idiot who asks the question does not deserve to taste the fruits (or espressos)of your labor. Isn't it great that there is something in our lives -- sugar or fiber -- that can be managed into submission at all?

noallatin said...

Lovely claramels although I have to agree with bests haile as seconded by hizKNITS.

Lanea said...

Lovely. And yes, people either understand the importance of making or they don't. You have another Claramels fan in Scott now, you know.

Bullwinkle said...

And I made my first (lovely!) approximations of the Claramel this year. (I love watching crystalline sugar transform into something else. And, apparently, no one minds eating them. You are brilliant.)

I'm loving the snow in Maine, and the pictures.

Liz said...

Nothing can compare to a gift made by hand. I'm happy to have inspired my 11 year old daughter - we made toffee yesterday. Her determination and love of creating are evident in each crooked morsel. Now someone please move these away from me!

Anonymous said...

Can these confections be purchased? If so, how?

Anonymous said...

As one who has only made caramels, not Claramels, I can say for certain one cannot buy them in a store. Nothing compares to the ones I used to make in my teens--or the Claramels being made now.

The first thing my sister asked for when she had a date for her braces to come off was a batch or my caramels. She had missed them for two years!