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?