Monday, January 19, 2015

Nutballs, peanut brittle and fudge, oh my!!

This is going to be somewhat of a self-deprecating blog, so be forwarned!~  I am laying it all out there, but I hope you find a little humor along the way (:

  I am in one of those moods where I see no end to the addiction that has plagued me now for the last twenty years.  I love food.  I love to cook it , bake it, and eat it.  There, I said it.  That being said, I don't like how I feel when I overeat it, or abuse it.  I love the social part of eating, and I so love the friends that I eat it with!!  I love the texture of food.  The crunch of cookies with a chewy center, the smoothness of a really good piece of chocolate, the blistered cheese on a piece of pizza and the freshly baked roll with its hot center smeared with softening real butter.   I love the smell of food.  Hot cinnamon oozing from fresh  cinnamon rolls,  cheese and potato soup with just a bit of sour cream bubbling on the stove, and pumpkin cookies with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves just out of the oven fill the empty places inside me.
I make rolls about every Sunday

Dorma, next door neighbor and friend extraordinaire, makes nut balls each Christmas.  Lori, MaryAnn and I all eagerly gather in her kitchen on an early December afternoon to make these delectable delights of caramel cream, chocolate and roasted almonds.  Idle Isle has nothing over Dorma! She has pefected these tasty little balls of goodness, and we clamor excitedly around her kitchen with our tupperware bowls.  Dorma assigns us our roles in the painstaking process,  and we obediently take our places.  Dorma has melted the chocolate very carefully in the oven at the perfect temperature.  She has pre-made the bowls of caramel, and the kitchen is pristine with every ingredient in an assembly line.  Two people must rub their hands with corn starch,  take a small spoon and dig out the frozen ball of delicious caramel.  It can't be too small or too big, and Dorma gets testy if you can't perform this simple task.  She takes over the chocolate and we toss the balls into the smooth  glossy waves of decadent goodness.   She yells at us if we get more than three or four in the pan.  I have been known to use a little force and splash a bit.  She immediately berates me.  Someone has to let the balls then roll down into a bowl of toasted almonds, gathering the appropriate amount of nuts.  They have to harden for just a minute, and so you must regulate them to the sides until they are deemed  ready to go into our tupperware.  I was taken off the nut duty this Christmas because Dorma said I didn't know how to let them roll, and I let too many pile up on the sides. We let her gripe at us at much as she wants because the nutballs are just that good!  We cannot wait for the rush of sugar speeding through our bloodstreams as we savor them all season long.  Most of us elect not to share them because they must be appreciated for the heavenly little orbits that they are....and our husbands choose to just pop them into their mouths and crunch them down.  They are only allowed one or two because of their insensitivity and ingratitude.
Dorma's famous Nutballs

 I like the way food looks. When I have been depressed or overwhelmed , I immediately turn to making  chocolate chip cookies.  Something about creaming all those ingredients together in perfection,  baking , and then plopping them out onto their cracked little bellies makes me happy.  I like to see the little rivers and craters appear that tell me that they are going to be delicious!  After performing the "plop test" I know immediately if I have a success! After having a c-section with Rachel and having four other little kids clamor around me that night after getting home, I baked cookies.  Jerry was gone to a meeting, and I wanted the familarity of my kitchen and hot cookies.  It brought me instant comfort when I was besieged with thoughts of "how can I possibly raise five kids under seven?"  Hah, little did I know there would come another night just like that one after giving birth to twin boys and having  seven kids under nine years of age!!  My sister Liz would aften call me late at night in those days  and say in a small, pleading little voice, "is this the  home bakery where I can get hot cookies and milk?"  I would be only too happy to oblige.  I baked, and we all were a little happier for a moment.
My nephew and niece Brian and Cadie eating hot cookies 
  Making food for people has always meant love to me.  My dad adored peanut brittle.  Mom had a world famous peanut brittle recipe.  We learned to snub our noses at other peanut brittle.  Hers was thick, shiny and beautiful with lots of peanuts.  Every year she would make that brittle for Dad.  She never used a candy thermometer.  She got the "never fail cup of ice water" and dipped a little of that  brittle in it as the candy boiled away.  Need to know the soft ball stage?  Does it sit on your finger after pulling it from the water?  How about the brittle stage?  Does it crack between your teeth?  I remember sitting around her warm kitchen on a cold winter's night testing bits of candy for her as we munched away at the tiny slivers of brittle.  I make it the very same way.  After my Dad died at the young age of 56, I made it for George , my dear friend SueAnn's beloved father.  He loved it as much as Thiel (my dad).  George passed away a couple of years ago, and I still make it.  My friends Vickie and Robin like it so we trade candy.  Robin makes me ginger molasses cookies, and Vickie (or her husband Rock) give me their famous pecan roll.  It's all good...and I do mean good!   SueAnn doesn't like peanut brittle so much so I make fudge.  I confess that when I sent it home with her daughter Kylie, I wanted to make another batch for myself.  Then I told Kylie I would make her a batch just for her (so I could eat some)...  When I make the peanut brittle, I look at mom's handwriting on paper, and I am feeled with longing for her.   It has been over fifteen years since we made peanut brittle together.  I remember thinking that I could not do it without her that first year after her death,  but as I looked at  her scrawled words on an old recipe book that is blotted with spills I felt her with me.  Looking at her handwriting floods  me with a sweet remembrance of that childhood home where I felt safe and loved.
Mom's peanut brittle recipe

 My friend Laurie, who is a far better cook and baker than I, would make cookies on a sunday afternoon while we all waited in piggish anticipation.  She lived just down the street and we would walk back and forth between our two houses expecting to see something exciting everytime we opened the door.  Not much was ever happening so we baked instead. Our favorite was chocolate chips cookies.   Laurie would get a little testy as we would eat them up as quickly as she would pull a batch from the oven.  We were not nearly as grateful as we should have been for such delectable treats.  Sitting in Ireta's kitchen (her mom) was wonderful.  Life was so relaxing then with no kids, and worries for the future.  Oh sure, we all whined about when we would be married and have kids.  We really did pine for those days when we would know true happiness.  We would make bets on who would get married first and be in wedded bliss.  Little did we know that life would be a lot more complicated than afternoons at Laurie's table eating cookies, chocolate eclairs and fudge.

Yup, I have an affection for food.  I am trying to figure out why, and I think that I use it in a variety of ways, the most blatant way being a true addiction.

   "Addiction is characterized by inabiltiy to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one's behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response."

I got that from ASAM ( American Society of Addiction Medicine, and I think it sums it up pretty well! Why can I not be addicted to exercise, or cleaning?  Everything in moderation they say.... but I wish I were different.  Wishing does not make it so, however, and tonight I make no promises about any decisive actions other than to do what I have always done....."sigh, and complain, and fervently resolve to do differently just for tomorrow" .  Except the tomorrows are becoming the weeks, months and years, and next year I will be sixty years old. ):

I want to play with my grandkids, go on trips, and climb the stupid stairs to my house without pain.
Yes, I have an underactive thyroid, and yes, my genetic make-up does not lean toward thin and willowy.....but....eating sensibly can keep the demons at bay.  I have been watching "My 600 pound life" and am both amazed and saddened by what I see...  There , but for the grace of God go I?  Yet, did not these people have a mere fifty pounds to lose at one time?  It's all relative.  I have decided that for some of us, ten pounds is as hard as a hundred.

Mom and I attended an Uncle's funeral the year before she passed away and as we stood in the room waiting to close the casket and say our goodbyes, she leaned towards me and whispered something.
I thought she was going to say something loving about Uncle Thayle, but no, she said conspiratorily, "Jane, it's not our fault, I tell you!"  "What isn't, Mom?"  I queried...  "Have you ever been in a room with as many fat people as this, and they are all our relatives!" she whispered back.    We contemplated these words as we stopped at Chuck A Rama on the way home.

Matthew and Mark are coming home in just a month, and the mom who left them at the MTC two years ago will look like the same mom who picks them up.  I've changed, but not so much in the physical sense.  I wanted them to see the new, fit mom who had conquered the food addiction. But I have changed nonetheless.  The wisdom, the gratitude, and the wonderment that I have gained in seeing my own children transformed has in return changed me.  For just a little frame of time, I was elevated to a place where I lived vicariously through their experiences in the mission field. We  prayed for the people they taught, we fasted for each missionary, we worried and we rejoiced.  We were so, so blessed and as excited as I am to see my kids again; I am reluctant to say goodbye to this part of my journey with my full-time missionary children.    Rachel's maturity and transformation  is in her eyes, her demeanor, and her interaction with people.  Being a disciple of Christ has changed her.  "She gets it".

Most people who serve on a mission say this, " I loved seeing people's lives change for the better". Our behaviors and desires can change through the healing, cleansing and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I hope I can remember this and keep striving as I keep the commandments.  Somedays I am earnest, and other days not so much.  I long for the true freedom that self-mastery can give me.

Perhaps next year,  I can resolve my relationship with Dorma's nutballs!!

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