Saturday, January 1, 2011

Holiday Traditions

One of my family’s traditions for decorating the Christmas tree involves homemade caramel corn. Not just any caramel corn-- Grammie Forbes’s recipe. I usually whip up a batch just before it’s time to start the festivities. We put a Christmas carol CD in the player, box brigade the ornament containers from their cellar storage, unpack, munch, and decorate. We enjoy reminiscing about the histories behind our very un-Martha Stewart-y ornaments as we hang them on the branches. It’s always a pleasant surprise to discover that the mice have neglected to eat the macaroni wreaths made by Kate and Nick 20-odd years ago during their preschool years. Last year, however, something happened that changed my life forever.

As a person who finds it difficult to stay on task, I have a new rule: No texting while cooking! In the middle of whipping up my annual batch of caramel corn, I suddenly had an uncontrollable urge to text my daughter, Kate. Although I can’t for the life of me remember what it was I “just had to tell her,” I interrupted my kitchen duties to tap out a message on my cellphone.

Meanwhile, back at the stove, a saucepan of sugar, corn syrup, butter, and vinegar was boiling merrily as the needle on my candy thermometer inched toward the goal: 290o F. Usually I tend this molten mixture closely, stirring frequently until it turns a creamy amber. Too hot and it burns, too cool and it stays sticky, never reaching that crisp-crunchy-melt-in-your-mouth heaven that is Grammie Forbes’s Caramel Corn. (This recipe is practically famous having traveled around the world during the Vietnam War to sustain my uncles and their navy friends.)

I snapped my phone shut and mixed in the vanilla and baking soda; the liquid was now a foaming froth, threatening to bubble over the rim of the pan. I quickly stirred and poured it on the waiting popcorn, coating every kernel. Finally, the popcorn cooled and I popped a morsel into my mouth, only to discover that my teeth were now stuck together! With visions of pulled fillings, I kept my teeth together, waiting for the sugar sealant to melt. What seemed like forever later, I was able to open my mouth. Argh! The batch hadn’t reached the proper temperature! It was a soggy, ruined mess! All for a text that could have waited the ten minutes it would have taken to perfect Grammie Forbes’s caramel mixture.

No comments:

Post a Comment