Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Went Home Today

Thomas Wolfe said "you can never go home again".  Well, that's not true, I went home today, at least in my memories.
This has been a somewhat emotional Christmas season for me and my sisters and brother and most especially for  my mom.  So today I decided to go home, just for the afternoon.
When we were kids my mom used to make fruitcake at Christmas.  She started in maybe October?  She mixed together all of the ingredients, got out her bottle of peach brandy and poured it over her cake.  Then she wrapped in up in a white flour sack clothe and put it up on the highest shelf of the hall closet.  Guess she didn't want us kids getting intoxicated by the fumes from the brandy.
Once a week she would take that fruitcake down from the closet, unwrap it, and pour more brandy on it  then wrap it up and put it back.  She did this until Christmas when she deemed it ready to eat.  Who on earth did she think was going to eat this fruitcake with her?  We all hated fruitcake.  I think Dad shared it with her, but I'm not sure he enjoyed it.
However, the one thing that I did love was her date roll. It was a candy made, obviously, from dates.  It had nuts it in and, of course, lots of sugar.  I would watch her make this heavenly candy and wait with anticipation until it was ready to eat.  My mom is an old fashioned candy maker, no thermometer for her, she used that drop the tiny spoonful of syrup into cold water and see if it turns into a soft or hard ball.  And she did it perfectly every time.   When it reached that softball stage she would add the nuts and the vanilla and beat that syrup until it was thick and ready to roll.  She made it look so easy.
So, now I am all grown up and want to make that candy.  I started trying to make it several years ago, unsuccessfully.  I would do all the right things and still it would never turn out like hers. 
This year was going to be THE year of the date roll for me.  I get all of the ingredients out, I want to have them all ready so nothing can go wrong.  I set them all out in the order that I am going to need them and follow the recipe to perfection.
Because I can't tell the softball stage of a candy from a hardball stage, I use a candy thermometer.  The temperature reached 260 degrees so I take the pot off of the stove, call my 10 year old grandson over to help me ("are you making great grandma's candy" he hollers).  He holds the pot while I use every bit of strength to beat the heck out of that candy.  It's supposed to lose it's gloss and become thick.  After what seems like an hour I think we've reached that point, so I scoop the candy onto a large cutting board and start to roll it up.  I think my mom forgot to tell me that it takes awhile for the candy to cool down from 260 degrees, ouch.
I finally get it all rolled up and wrapped up in waxed paper ( I love waxed paper, it seems so old fashioned to me).  Well, I think I have done it exactly like I remember my mom do it and I have followed the recipe precisely.  It's wrapped up and I put it in the refrigerator to be taken out and tested in just a little while.
After a very long hour I get my sharpened knife and take the candy out of the fridge.  I unwrap it and place it on the cutting board.  And what do you know,  I guess this isn't my year.  It's so hard that it almost breaks my ginsu, super sharp, heavy duty knife. 
Well, I'll try again next year on my trip home down memory lane.  And besides, Tylor loves it no matter how hard it is.  I'm only afraid his mom will forbid him to eat it, fearing he may break his teeth.

ODE TO A DATE ROLL (by Emma's daughter, who cannot make a date roll to save her life)
The color's not right, it tastes like a shoe.
I honestly, truly, don't know what to do.
I went to the store, bought all the right stuff,
And yes, I'm pretty sure I bought quite enough.
I carted my groceries out of my car,
Into the house and onto the bar.
I got out the thermometer, the pot, and the spoon.
I knew that the grandsons would both be home soon.
And, oh, they would marvel.  They'd oooh and they'd aahh
At this wonderful creation as soon as they saw.
But what did they see when they walked in the door?
My pot and my spoon and myself on the floor.
I give up, I give up I said in a state
You can all go fishing and use it as bait.
So now I give up, I won't do it again,
At least til next year when, who knows, I might win!

1 comment:

  1. This was just what I needed this morning! What a funny, awesome tribute to an awesome mother! (Yesterday on the phone I told her I wanted to be like her when I grew up - - and I really do). Your poem was GREAT! Seriously. Loved it. Love you!