Saturday, December 24, 2005

Caramelizing Christmas

First, before we get on to the general theme of this evening’s symposium, I’ll pass along the winner of the ‘Phrase With Which I Never Expected to Start a Sentence’ Contest:

“So, I was making caramels the other night…”

Now then.

So, I was making caramels the other night in a fit of holiday spirit of some kind (I’m not sure which holiday tradition involves the making of caramels, but I’m sure there’s at least one), and ran into unexpected difficulty in the form of an ornery 18-month old, who decided she didn’t want to sleep for more than 15 minutes at a stretch.

I’ve groused in the past about unrealistic expectations by recipe authors – namely, the expectation that I’ll know what the heck I’m doing in the kitchen when the recipe calls for me to “sear” something. In the case of the caramels, I was pretty confident in my ability to follow the recipe itself, but as usual, the recipe included no contingency plan for what you do when your mixture is just about to reach optimal temperature and your 18-month old is letting loose with what the 19 Minutes household has long referred to as her “pterodactyl scream”. Let’s think of those contingencies next time, recipe authors! Thank you.

The caramels turned out okay. At room temperature, they make a good ballast ingredient, or could be used to provide traction for a vehicle stuck in ice. Heated in the microwave for 13 seconds, they do a nice impression of actual caramels. Heated in the microwave for 20 seconds, they do a nice job of coating the inside of the microwave with a sticky mess.


Sylvi recovered from the other evening’s Non-Sleeping Pterodactyl Mode, allowing for a trip this evening to Target. It was a sociologist’s field day at Target, inasmuch as it was the Friday evening before Christmas. I get sort of a neurotic pleasure out of scenes like tonight's, along the same lines as the neurotic pleasure I got out of driving to the Mall of America on the day after Christmas one year, just to see if I could find a parking space (I landed in the first row, no less).

Anyway, there were a variety of personality types at Target this evening:

  • The Intergenerational Arguing Families. They were gathered around the “One Spot”, where everything is a dollar, and they could get their pre-holiday aggression out by snapping at each other over whether to buy mini-photo albums or Shirley Temple DVDs as stocking stuffers. Ho ho ho!
  • People cruising the toy department while consulting with unseen relatives (who may well have been in the Housewares section) by cell phone about whether “Hungry Hungry Hippos” is an appropriate gift for a four-year old. It does raise questions about how we, as a society, got along before we could use cell phones from the toy department. The answer is, we bought inappropriate gifts in those days. I remember being around 10 years old and getting a birthday present from an elderly relative that was way inappropriately young. Somehow, even at that age, I grasped that the embarrassment would be worse for the gift giver than it was for me, so I remember being pretty gracious about the whole thing. And it’s why, to this day, I try to err on the side of caution, which explains why 18-month old Sylvi will be receiving a subscription to Newsweek for Christmas this year.
  • People only there to buy Kleenex or AA batteries. Poor saps.
  • The freaked-out, clueless guy looking for something for his wife or significant other. I, myself, spent several hours in a mall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this week in just such a mode, finding plenty of gifts that I would have enjoyed, and gradually expanding my mental notion of what would constitute an appropriate gift for my wife. ("Hmmm… how about Old Navy? Hey! There’s a pen shop! Hold on – maybe the Wisconsin Cheese Mart is open late!") So again, I went with Newsweek.

No comments: