Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Like Moth to a Flame

Groping through the dark leather landscape of my mother’s pocket purse as if on secret mission, my small groping hands flutter atop compact and facial tissues before settling upon the sharp tell tale crinkle of a cellophaned buttery Brach bow. As a child, spaces big and small loomed large like a puzzle to be inhabited and understood. This was not the quest of a swashbuckling conqueror full of grace and bravado, but rather the impulse sprung from an unnamed place bounded by fear of the unknown and boredom with the familiar.

Sometimes a seemingly unremarkable moment sticks-- longer than a few seconds and gains reverse momentum to still another unremarkable moment in time years earlier. These two points then form a bridge which the mind attempts to pass through repetitively in the hopes to wear a connection. Recently a picture of butterscotch sauce and ice cream, which I have never eaten except as components to a banana split sundae called out; sending me back to a chilly forlorn day made up of shades of grey where I sat pushed on a cold metal swing by my mother. I leave the desolate park hand in hand with her, butterscotch candy the only burst of color in this scene, slowly melting in my mouth. This scratchy recollection shorn down to the bare details, a few frames only manages to captivate me with its striking ominous mood. Like a detective I match this alien feeling, a brutish sky bearing down suggesting a summer storm to come, to other fragmented moments where I rubbed elbows with some yet-to-be-defined sensation. Suddenly I am deluged with snippets of memories of a younger me creeping about, pushing the edge of my small existence: at the silent bottom of a tiled pool, in the tangled decay of woods out back, in the weirdly lit dank basement, exploring my parent’s shadowed closet. Each dark and unsettling interaction with the world, destabilization of that once known, without exception was followed by scared stiff legs bounding back to the safe shores of mother.

Under the present spell of butterscotch, I hypnotically follow my tracks from tottering out of the park that day to now stirring thick golden syrup as it gently cascades billows of confectionary perfume into my kitchen. The taste is smooth and haunting, a lyrical sublime flavor similar to the toffees and caramels consumed in the past but I detect something more. It is longing and nostalgia mixed into the lingering taste of molten butter and sugar. Lulled by the rich color of flaxen honey, I recognize the arms of my mother that were always there, the wide embrace of welcome, the creamy succor of safety, and the enticing promise of sweetness. All those times I discovered that lone piece of candy or stick of gum in the bottom of her sack I pounced upon it- a prize I feared would be seized from me, all attention and focus placed upon extracting the goodness out of it as if life might blossom into something extraordinarily marvelous. My world in its smallness grubbed about pilfering doses of candy, scouring the corners of home looking for the seams to bust out of. I never could have understood or imagined the magnitude of the love of a mother always on the flip side of danger who could give everything, least of all a little sugar- and did.

Butterscotch Sauce makes 2 cups: Adapted from March 2008 issue of Saveur.

I never grew up with anything the likes of this. It is fantastic, buttery and sweet without being too rich or cloying. This sauce already feels like a staple along side the ketchup. I envision plunking, shmearing, and dripping this into everything. And though a food sharer, I paused a moment before passing the spoon…

8 Tbsp. Unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. Corn syrup
¼ C Water
¾ C Sugar
¼ C Brown sugar
1/3 C Half and half
1 tsp. Brandy
1 tsp. Vanilla
½ tsp. Sea salt

Directions: Put butter, corn syrup, and water in a saucepan over medium low flame. Stir until melted and add both sugars. Scrape down sides and then allow the mixture to come to a boil without further mixing. Syrup will turn a golden brown and when it reaches 245 degrees, remove from heat. Stir in half and half, brandy, vanilla, and salt. Cool and serve over ice cream. Broken pretzels and toasted nuts would be nice.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

My husband will love this sauce -- I'm sending the recipe to him right away! For me, butterscotch brings back memories of butterscotch crumpets, which I used to crave as an afternoon snack.

sher said...

Oh no you didn't!!!!!! You didn't do that to me! I love butterscotch sauce soooo much! Not the stuff in jars at the store--but sauce like yours. Sigh. I'll be bedeviled by that recipe for a long time!

nansita said...

Whenever I read your posts, I first linger over the art and its surprises. And then the story: this time, again, I was right alongside you, at the park, with your loneliness, the search for color, warmth, and sweetness. You traverse the path between scene and scene and don't know what will come up, yet you carefully explain what you find, even tying it to a recipe and an experience in real now time. Magic.

jbird said...

how delectable, and I think it would be killer on everything....
and worth being prescribed Lipitor
for the rest of my life. ;-)
That over a warm freshly baked brownie with a swizzle of Readi Whip....and that's Nirvana realized.

HipWriterMama said...

Ahhhhh....Butterscotch! It is a total comfort sweet sensation. Your sauce recipe sounds divine and is a must try.

Anh said...

What can I say but oh wow! I just sampled one of the best sticky date pudding around, and that butterscotch sauce is sooo soo good!

BTW, I tried the black pea dish you posted earlier. So nice with rice. Exactly what I needed! So thanks my friend!

Callipygia said...

lydia- I hope you tried this sauce, I've been spreading it on scones myself... but crumpets perfect for tea.

sher- I hope you succumbed to the sauce...

nansita- it really is magic to move from one scene to the next and have it unfold into something else. time orgami.

jbird- yes, I did in fact enjoy it most on an oat scone. Now brownie and RediWhip, the fun begins.

hipwritermama- the taste is really comforting, great on bread pudding or something creamy.

anh- oh yeah sticky toffee pudding, sounds so stodgy but never fails to surprise and delight! And glad you liked the black eyed peas.

sher said...

You know, I was going to make this as an Easter gift for a friend. But, I knew that I would just keep it for myself. So, I'll make it another time. I made my friend a wonderful cake instead. I gladly gave it to her. But, if I make that butterscotch sauce, I'm not sharing it!

Is that so wrong?

Gattina said...

while I was reading as if I was taking microscopic tour on your memory lane, I could see different layers and even textures! Now I understand why you hesitate to pass the spoon... but still, pass me the spoon :)

Callipygia said...

sher- gifting to ourself is a wonderful thing!

gattina- Happily I would pass you the spoon.