My train this morning was 20 minutes late due to police activity at some previous station. As a result, I didn’t get to work until almost 10 a.m.
Work was fine and I stayed until slightly after 6 just because I was in the middle of something and wanted to finish. As a result, I missed the 6:17 train and caught the 6:51 instead. This got me back to the station at 7:35 and then I went to Shop-Rite to buy more pecans for the remaining pie I needed to bake.
IT WAS A MADHOUSE. MY GAWD. I was in line with my two little bags of pecans, a bag of yogurt covered raisins and carrot ginger salad dressing (mmmmm) behind people with carts full of turkeys and potatoes and whatnot. There were no express lanes open. So I was stuck. And the woman behind me kept pushing her cart into my ass and then apologizing. I think she was just nervously rocking it back and forth since she was impatient about being in such a long slow-moving line, and she was sincerely sorry and embarrassed… but GEEZ. Play a game on your cell phone or read a magazine or something. Don’t go running your cart into my ass!
I got home, had some chili from a can over brown rice my mother had made. THEN… the baking began. It was sort of a race. It was 9:00 and my mother had an apple cobbler already IN the oven as well as an apricot tart getting ready to go in. My pecan pie wasn’t even started yet. So I made the caramel – that has a requisite 30 minute cooling period before I add the eggs. Otherwise, the eggs will get cooked by the hot caramel – and trust me when I tell you it neither looks nor smells pleasant.
(To add to the multi-tasking and stress, I also needed to do laundry and have to be at work early tomorrow for the final part of my new employee orientation.)
I finally put the pie in the oven at 10:00, at which point my mother decided it was bedtime and left me there to do the dishes, finish up HER laundry so I could put mine in the washer, and to watch her two pie/cobbler things and pull them out when they were ready. With two oven timers, a dishwasher cycle, a washer cycle and a dryer cycle to pay attention to, I couldn’t dare let myself get engrossed in my newest book find… The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.
It’s damn good so far. I started reading it last night and then couldn’t put it down on the train this morning or during lunch or on the ride home. However, there were many interruptions, so I’m not as far along as I would have been if I’d been able to read for a solid block of time. Grrr. I’d be done by now, really, since I’m halfway there right now. I hate to use the term that made me put off reading it for so long, but it really is “literary vampire fiction.”
Tomorrow I will upload a picture of the pie I baked tonight. It’s truly one of the more beautiful caramel pecan pies I’ve baked. Too bad it’s already betrothed to a friend or I’d keep it.
Here’s my little bit of meditative thought for tonight. (It’s raining and I can’t help it…)
To make caramel, you take water and sugar in a 1 to 4 ratio and put them in a saucepan over medium heat. You have to keep stirring and stirring as the sugar and water heat up so that the sugar doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pan. Also, it helps to dissolve the sugar into the water more quickly. While I was making the caramel tonight, I noticed that there’s something really beautiful and magical about the chemistry taking place in this little bit of cooking. As I stir and stir, for the longest period of time the sugar and water just create a cloudy sort of mixture** that I have to keep stirring. After a while, my wrist gets tired and I switch hands or stir clockwise instead of counterclockwise, etc.
There’s a point, though, where I’ll start to see streaks of clarity in the cloud of sugar and water as I stir through it with the wooden spoon. Within seconds of this first streak of clarity – where the sugar and water are actually becoming a syrup – the entire mixture clarifies and is no longer water with crystals of sugar suspended in it, but a lovely homogeneous liquid that’s clear and sweet and ready to caramelize into something beautiful and amber or honey-colored. It’s at this point that I sometimes like to take a fork and dip the tines quickly into the syrup and quickly pull it up while blowing on it… if the speed and consistency are right, I’ll end up with little angel hair strands of sugar that solidify instantly and are just really cool to look at.
This struck me as something a little more meaningful than simple food chemistry. Something about clouds and clarity and heat and work and sweetness. I’m not going to spell it out because it will sound like a cheesy self-help book or some horrible Hallmark card. But take from this little description what you will.
I have to catch the early train, so it’s bedtime for me.
(**I’m NOT going into solution versus suspension or whatever right here, folks!)