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.