Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's time to make the candy

For a variety of reasons, I admit that I was resisting the arrival of December. I wanted fall to last forever this year. I even dreamed over the weekend that I was teaching a kindergarten class; the children were insisting it was time to decorate the classroom tree while I was trying to tell them the activity for the day would be carving a pumpkin. (The fact that our public school system would allow neither of these activities in the classroom had little impact on my subconscious.)

Nonetheless, December arrived without my permission and in spite of my pervasive anxiety that in myriad ways I’m not ready for the holiday season.

And then yesterday at the supermarket a little spark went off as I stood in the baking aisle. You may be feeling really resistant to the idea of shopping and wrapping and getting ready for the church pageant and helping at the Greens Sale and planning the Christmas Day schedule, a voice in my head said, but don’t forget about making candy! That’s always fun.

Right. That is always fun. In fact, it’s one of my favorite yearly traditions: filling up my kitchen with the aromas of melting butter and chocolate as I arrange ingredients all over the countertop and turn out pan after pan of confections: chocolate truffles, nut brittle, peppermint bark, toffee, peanut butter balls.

So I stocked my grocery cart with nuts, chocolate chips, corn syrup, all the ingredients I’d need for this annual practice. Candy-making is one of the things I love about the holiday season. I love how easy it is to make all these different candies, and I love the fact that unlike cookies, candy-making is still seen as a novelty, something unexpected and unusual. It’s also both easier and neater than baking, in my opinion: no flour settling in a fine dust over every surface; no cookies cooling on racks. Most of my candy recipes take minutes to stir up, and use fewer than half a dozen ingredients.

So last night I swung into action. By the time I went to bed, one hundred cocoa-dusted truffles were cooling in the fridge. And this was only the first day of the month. True, I have nothing to wear to holiday parties this year and I’m feeling a little sad that both my sisters will be in Europe rather than at our house for Christmas as they and their families usually are. But my kitchen is already filling up with candy, and just falling into the familiar rhythms of boiling and stirring reminds me of this most beloved yearly tradition.

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