Making Candy

Today isn’t really a studio day, it is Sunday, and there are larger more important things in life, like watching my 16 year old, dressed like a donkey, crawl on her hands and knees up the aisle in church, carrying Mary on her back for the Sunday School Christmas pageant. The HS kids are usually exempt from the Nativity scene, but my daughter, the largest kid in the Sunday School, always cheerfully accepts the invitation to play the donkey, she is the only one large enough to pull it off. Afterwards there is grocery shopping, errands, and my wonderful husband stayed behind to remove another three inches of snow from the cars and driveway. My 18 year old son is deliriously happy, the semester is over, and he is on the mountain teaching skiing in the fresh snow, to little kids who aren’t afraid yet of falling and getting hurt or looking stupid.
My daughter discovered a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living laying on the dining room table with all the collecting mail and holiday cards, and found the section on holiday baking. Her eyes got bigger and bigger and when she found the recipe for peppermint sticks, real peppermint sticks, not the candy canes you buy in the store (she didn’t know there was any other kind), she begged to get the ingredients to try them out, along with chocolate bark and choco dipped caramallows. So last Sunday, we did our Shoprite run, and she happily cooked all day, making candy, melting chocolate, and completely trashing my kitchen. I don’t know how the chocolate bark turned out, since she whisked it away and will give it to me for Christmas. The caramallows were a disaster, but the peppermint sticks intriqued her enough to want to make 10 more batches to give to all her friends and teachers for Christmas.
So today, we bought more corn syrup, more sugar, and all the different extracts that we could find at Shoprite. I skipped the rum, but maybe that would have been fun as well. I disappeared into my studio, to finish the Big Sister piece, only five little strips left to insert, and my daughter started on her afternoon adventure. I wisely stayed away…
It is a joy to watch a 16 year old, iTunes blasting in the kitchen, making candy from scratch, like she has discovered a part of the world that was hidden from her generation and is celebrating it with the raw enthusiasm of youth. It is a lot like weaving, a craft that dates back to the beginning of time, yet new generations keep discovering it.
Periodically she would come running to find me with the latest colorful batch, to taste test. They are really delicious, these little hard candies, nothing like the artificial candy canes you buy in the stores. She has the whole routine down to a science, knowing how to handle the hot taffy, and how long to pull before she has to start cutting it into little bite size pillows, how to keep them from sticking to the pan, to her, to each other.
My kitchen is totally trashed. But I’ll get it clean again, and she will eventually settle down and study for her big Chemistry exam tomorrow. The holiday spirit is high in our house, a blanket of snow covers the outside, and hot sticky candy covers the inside and though Martha Stewart she is not, my daughter has discovered that what comes from the hands is far better than anything you can buy.

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[…] to make an attempt to appear to care about dinner.  I found my daughter in the throes of her annual ‘Christmas presents for her teachers’ extravaganza, she decided with about 12 hours to […]

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