To think that all these years, as I was chowing down on Christmas cookies from the neighbors, I never fully realized that cooking (and baking) really is an act of love.
It’s also, in my case, an act of hate…as in “love-hate,” since I still lack the confidence in the kitchen that, according to Barbara Kingsolver is 80% of good cooking. The other day as I was watching a divine yellowish mixture of butter, honey, sugar, and creme fraiche boil, I kept nervously asking my three sous-chefs whether it looked like it was turning the amber color of real caramel…
“It looks like it is turning colors. Emile, what do you think?… Emile? Emile!”
Emile nonchalantly gets up from his job cutting parchment paper. “Did you turn on the stove light?”
“I think it’s just the light that makes it look darker.”
After forty minutes of torturous staring at the potion, hoping it would transform into caramel, it did. All of a sudden it went from yellow to butterscotch to deep amber and bam! we were in business!
“Jules, clear the counter! Emile, hold the pan! Lucien, get out of the way!” I was barking orders like I knew what I was doing, hoping we’d have something to wrap in parchment paper and give away as gifts by the end of the evening.
Oh, me of little faith. While I had been fretting, the boys had prepared fortune-cookie style (or papillotes here in France) inserts to wrap with the caramels. Beginning with traditional phrases like Joyeux Noel and Bonne Annee, the boys’ senses of humor quickly took over to produce little papers with sentences like, “You resemble me a little…and it’s a compliment!” and “Give your caramel to Jules.”
When I saw that the coast was clear and the caramel-colored caramels were cooling safely on the counter, I laughed with Jules, Emile, and Lucien.
Then I went home and got the funny inclination to make another batch to give away.
And I decided that while I was at it, I might make bourbon balls too.
So, here’s to my first grown-up effort at making Christmas goodies…maybe they aren’t a sight for sore eyes, but they’re tastefully seasoned with the good-humored nonchalance I am learning to embrace thanks to those three boys.