Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Chocarines ... a Borderland Treat

"Almost every person has something secret he likes to eat. He is downright furtive about it usually, or mentions it only in a kind of conscious self-amusement, as one who admits too quickly, "It is rather strange, yes--and I'll laugh with you."

Do you remember how Claudine used to crouch by the fire, turn a hairpin just fast enough to keep the toasting nubbin of chocolate from dripping off? Sometimes she did it on a hairpin over a candle. But candles have a fat taste that would taint the burnt chocolate, so clean and blunt and hot...

Hard bitter chocolate is best, in a lump not bigger than a big raisin. It matters very little about the shape, for if you're nimble enough you'll keep it rolling hot on the pin, as shapely as an opium bead.

When it is round and bubbling and giving out a dark blue smell, it is done. Then, without some blowing all about, you'll burn your tongue. But it is delicious.

However, it is not my secret delight. Mine seems to me less decadent than Claudine's, somehow. Perhaps I am mistaken. I remember that Al looked at me very strangely when he first saw the little sections lying on the radiator...

It was then that I discovered how to eat little dried sections of tangerine. My pleasure in them is subtle and voluptuous and quite inexplicable. I can only write how they are prepared.

In the morning, in the softy sultry chamber, sit in the window peeling tangerines, three or four. Peel them gently; do not bruise them...Separate each lump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for Al.

Take yesterday's paper ... and spread it on top of the radiator...After you have put the pieces of tangerine on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them...

On the radiator the sections of tangerines have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, put I open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow of the sill. They are ready...

The sections of tangerine are gone, and I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.

There must be some one, though, who knows what I mean. Probably everyone does, because of his own secret eatings."

M.F.K. Fischer, an abridged version of her essay "Borderlandfrom The Art of Eating
While summer was still young, and beginning to heat itself into the long and beautiful dry spell I found a volume of M.F.K. Fischer's The Art of Eating sitting on our local library FOR SALE shelves. I've always wanted to read her work, but until that day had only scanned excerpts of the famous food writers essays. The thick paperback was faded, not very used as some cookbooks can be that are well-read and used as a practical accounting of recipes in addition to the unique tongue in which a food writer uses to scent a book. Nevermind. The book was marked $1.50 and I had coins to cover it. I paid the friendly librarian and took my book home.
It sat on my own shelf for months, as life and death came during the late spring and other things kept my attention. Perhaps it was grief that veiled the gold of M.F.K. Fischer's stories. Perhaps it was just not time. A week ago The Art of Eating lay in the back of my car along with my walking stick, boots and collection of driftwood soon to be used as Clacking Sticks in a storytelling event to come. I meant to take the book to the thrift store. One day late last week, as I reached for boots to go for a lovely walk along the Salish Sea I noticed the book had curled into a wave of its own. You know how old paper does that ... beautiful, though it may appear to disrespect the book bindery elves who worked the machinery in the tower of Publishing World. But other elves or faery were at work on The Art of Eating. While I changed from sandal to boot I look closely at the title blinking at me from the wave of pages. Borderland, it read. Borderland! I have a passion for the borders and many of my stories weave in and across borders. I took this as an oracle, a sign. This book was not yet done with me.
The abridged version of the essay Borderland which opens this post braceleted my imagination and my whimsy. A writer described peeling crescents of tangerines to dry on old newspaper over a hot radiator. The words tantalized all the tiny hairs of my nostils (metaphoric and literal) and I was enchanted. As life and death have braided themselves in my experience this summer, old patterns of comfort-habits took me on a well-worn trail: eating my way through grief, I came to the place where my body, and soul said, "Enough now. Let go for now. Find your way back." So for a month now, I have been doing just that. Eating differently using (another book found at my library) The Abascal Way to Quiet Inflammation I am training myself to care differently for me. It seems to be working. I feel better, calmer and ... less inflamed. (Please link to the book for details about the eating approach).

What is wonderful and magical about being open to treats is how the wave of curling pages on a paperback destined for the thrift shop stirred me to a description that I could hybridize in the way I love. M.F.K. Fisher described tangerines (I love the color orange, tangerine; the perfume is one of the 'perfumes' that I tolerate and CAN love!). Crescents of the orange fruit drying on paper over a hot radiator was something I could modify. (I could use a paper bag to lay the fruit. We do have radiators in our tiny wash house we use to dry our clothes.) Tangerines. There I would need to go to my local grocer, my produce guy.

"Do you ever get tangerines?" I asked. The tall be-speckled produce guy who always wears a baseball hat said, "We do, but not lately. I know we get the Satsumas at Christmas."

"I wonder if it's just not the season yet?" I contributed. "But it would seem to be the time for them."

"Would you like me to check, and leave a message for the person who orders?"

"I would!" I was excited.

"What is your name?" the man with the baseball hat asked.

"Mokihana." I said.

"Bjorn." The man said extending his hand.

"Should I call you the whole name?" he gestured as if opening an accordion.

"Yes, Mokihana would be good." I smiled and appreciated he would ask rather than assume a nickname or shorten version would work just as well. But then Bjorn is a name some would not be able to spell, or say correctly the first time. We went on to have a pleasant chat about Hawaii, and names. Bjorn would let a note and ask about tangerines.

My produce guy was good to his word. Within two days tangerines, well organic Minneola Tangelos, a close cousin, were stacked in a small heap in the window of my local grocer. The photos I've included are pictures of the Mineola Tangelos and the hybridized treat inspired by the essay from the paperback with curling pages. The process for peeling and drying tangerines? I did just that with the Tangelos, using a small brown paper bag rather than old newspaper. Combining the two 'something secret he likes to eat' from M.F.K. Fisher's Borderland  I found unsweetened baker's chocolate (One can eat cacao on my inflammation quieting eating plan in unlimited amounts if you know you can eat chocolate) on sale at my local grocer that also sells Minneola Tangelos. While the sweet crescents heated and plumped on paper over my hot radiator (the paper did not burn nor scorch) I heated 1 oz of unsweetened chocolate in a stainless measuring cup resting in boiling water. When the chocolate was melted I took the plump crescents gently by one end and dipped them into the melted chocolate at a slight angle, shook the liquid gold chocolate a bit and put them onto a tray lined with parchment paper. The tricky bit was how to keep them in place. I let the treats chill in a very cold freezer for 5-10 minutes. I call 'em Chocarines! Truly a Borderland treat.

They aren't hard to make. And are in fact, a delight to make. It helps if you have a Bjorn the Produce Guy and a hot radiator. Bon Appetit!

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