A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Caramel Corn for One

I have a pretty good diet, for an American. A typical breakfast for me is a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal and a cup of unsweetened tea. Lunch is usually a big salad of organic romaine dressed with olive oil and topped with various high-protein additions. Supper might be a stir-fry, a veggie-burger, or some potatoes or cauliflower completely disguised by Indian spices. So far, so good.

If I go to bed early and get eight hours of sleep, no problem. Unfortunately, I don't need that much sleep. If I stay up until two or three or four in the morning, however—which is almost all the time—I get dangerous cravings. And since I'm a pretty good cook, even if I don’t keep snacks around the house I can create them out of almost anything in the pantry.

The other night I was working late at my computer, as usual. Around two a.m. I started thinking about caramel. Caramel is right up there for me with chocolate. And sitting at a computer, I had about a billion recipes for gooey desserts available to me without even having to step over to the bookcase. After considering for a minute, I decided that what I fancied was caramel corn. I don't make it often, but often enough to remember that it must be baked in the oven for about an hour after putting it together to make it properly crunchy. As anyone who gets middle-of-the-night cravings knows, texture is every bit as important as taste. But also that time is of the essence.

A quick search turned up a recipe for microwaved caramel corn. I was dubious but desperate. I followed the directions and was happily amazed to find it worked perfectly and yielded four quarts of delicious caramel corn. I’ll never go back to the oven.

Here’s the recipe:

Make four quarts of plain popcorn. (That’s ½ cup of kernels in an air popper.) Put a stick of butter, a cup of brown sugar, ½ cup corn syrup, and a pinch of salt in a bowl and microwave until it’s boiling—about 2 minutes. Stir at this point if you want. Then boil another two minutes in the microwave. Stir in ½ teaspoon baking soda. Put the popcorn in a brown paper grocery bag and pour the caramel over. Roll down the top of the bag and shake vigorously. Microwave bag 1 ½ minutes. Shake bag and microwave another 1 ½ minutes. Shake again and pour out onto a tray. If you’re the type to eat the whole batch in one sitting, you can be in my caramel corn club.



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