I had one job. One.
The Girl came home last weekend armed with a caramel recipe. She needed a bigger kitchen, all the ingredients, and possibly even a couple of days with her folks. Or maybe she was just hungry for a good caramel.
She has tried to get a decent one out of me her entire life. Most of the time when she asks me if I can do something, my answer is, “Yes, I think I can do that.” For example, I learned how to do a ballet bun when she was five years old. And against my better judgment, I let her talk me into painting her bedroom the color of stomach flu medicine when she was ten. When she wanted a custom sewn prom dress, I drew it with colored pencils so the seamstress knew what we were talking about. Her first apartment is decorated with painted thrift store furniture and hand-stitched curtains that I made. She asks. I get to work. That’s how it has always been. That’s what moms do.
But when it comes to cooking, the six most dreaded words out of her mouth during the holidays are “We should try to make caramels.” This year, instead of asking, she took matters into her own hands. First, she bought a fancy candy thermometer. Then, she tested its accuracy. Who knew that testing a candy thermometer was a thing? Not me, obviously. Then, she got after me because I was not measuring the salt correctly and she made me do it over. She melted and dumped and stirred. The goo began to change color and the temperature began to rise. She stirred some more. The molten goo began to bubble dangerously close to the top of the pot. In horror, we watched as it burped once very loudly and began to overflow all over my cook top. At this point, I may have uttered a not very Christmas-y word or two as I transferred it to a larger pot. Grim-faced and resolute, the Girl continued to stir. She was going to get her caramels with or without me.
While she stirred, I prepared the pan in which to cool the goo. The recipe called for buttered parchment paper. I am not a parchment paper type of mother. In my 40 plus years of cooking and baking, not once have I ever looked into my pantry and thought, “Yikes! I am out of parchment paper! Better put it on the list!” If you are a parchment paper mother, good for you. I’ll bet you make great caramels, too, don’t you?
Trying to cool a batch of caramels on waxed paper instead of parchment paper is a really bad idea. When it comes to caramels, the only thing waxed paper is good for is wrapping the darned things. The next hour was spent surgically removing shreds and wisps of waxed paper from the bottom of the cooled slab. The good news is that despite the fact that her dopey, caramel challenged mother very nearly ruined the whole batch because she did not have parchment paper, the candy turned out perfectly.
She got her caramels. My stove top is cleaned up. We have decided that caramel making will be her job from now on. She will bring the parchment paper. I will just watch. Maybe if I’m good, she’ll let me lick the spoon.
Joy to the World.