9

My Epiphany

I have always wanted to have an epiphany because it sounds so significant, but I wasn’t sure if I would have one, since it also sounds unattainable, like a mirage.

I am here to tell you I had my first epiphany.

I was in the vicinity of a very special caramel shop and since it was that kind of day, I went in. Before I go further into my story, I must let you know that I have never considered myself to be a caramel person. I grew up on ultra sweet caramels, which has made me eschew  chewing caramels in the years since. However, I had read about this particular caramel shop and wanted to try it.

I planned to have only one.

A plate of samples offered large chunks of caramel with cashews, almonds, and pecans with smoked sea salt and dark chocolate. I took one large chunk and put it on the silver-colored tray the caramel creator gave me with my chosen caramel (white chocolate exterior, dark chocolate, orange essence, coconut, cacao nibs) that seemed like the perfect blend of my some of my favorite flavors.

I sat at a large wooden table. I ate the sample slowly and carefully. It was the perfect balance of salty and sweet. Next I ate the white chocolate one. Tasty, but I couldn’t detect the orange, and the white chocolate overpowered the dark chocolate and cacao nibs. I wanted that great dark chocolate taste.

I had no choice but to get the caramel with dark chocolate exterior and little bit of smoked sea salt. Very caramelly, but not enough smoked sea salt.

So I had to get another. It reminded me of the nutty one. I liked the mix of salt with graham cracker base, marshmallows, dark chocolate, toasted pecans, and coconut.

I was glad to be able to sit and eat because can you imagine what would have happened if I had gotten just one and left, only to arrive home realizing I need more caramels in my life?

Yes, that was my great revelation: I am a caramel person and I need more caramels in my life.

3

A Kernel of Truth

I love the smell of popcorn popping. I love the sound of popcorn pop pop popping.

I learned to pop popcorn at an early age by covering the bottom of a pan with cooking oil, turning on the heat, putting one kernel in, and waiting for it to pop. When it did, I knew the oil was hot enough. I then added the rest of the kernels, the lid, and shook the pan back and forth till I heard pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop.

In my twenties, I had a friend I’d chat with on the phone and she’d say, “I’m in the living room making popcorn.”

“How do you do that?”

She said, “I add all the kernels and turn on the heat.” Then she’d leave the kitchen to talk on the phone, fold laundry, or read. She returned when the popcorn was ready.

I was amazed.

“You can do it,” she encouraged me.

And over twenty years later, I still make popcorn her way. The only difference is I don’t leave the room. Aside from that, I do have a hands off approach. I don’t shake shake shake the pan like my forebears. I meditate, read a magazine, or write my next great opus.

I have a laissez-faire policy. It’s my popcorn anarchy.

6

Pepper Spray

While at a Brittany restaurant to celebrate my birthday, the chef served buckwheat crepes to the guests and asked whether anyone would like fresh ground pepper. Everyone, except Yours Truly, said yes. Yours Truly said, “I once requested fresh ground pepper, then never again.” “What happened?” her guests asked.

“Once upon a time,” Yours Truly began. “I had gone out to lunch with a co-worker at a fancy shmancy restaurant. I ordered Tuna Nicoise. The waiter asked if I would like fresh ground pepper. I usually don’t ask for it, but on this particular occasion, I decided to be adventurous. He gave the grinder a twist, something made a noise, a part snapped off, and peppercorns sprayed out, all over the table, and raining down on my plate.

“I looked down at the hundreds of peppercorns and made a face. I gave myself a pep talk. ‘You can do this.’ I took a bite of tuna, and several peppercorns landed in my mouth. I told the waiter, ‘I can’t eat this.’ He removed my plate and promised to bring another. He did so because underneath it all, he knew I had grounds for complaint.

“And that is why, over eighteen years later, I have not requested fresh pepper since.”

***

Epilogue: A couple of years after the Peppercorn Fiasco, Yours Truly was in a not so distant locale waiting for the train. There were a few others on the train platform. One was a man who came over to her. “I remember you,” he said. “I was the waiter when you requested the fresh ground pepper.” They laughed and laughed, their conversation peppered by the memory of the peppercorns.

6

Tastes Like Chicken

Maybe I had lost my noodles. The other day I decided to make chicken soup with purple potatoes, purple kale, and red onion. They stained the chicken purple.

A few days later, I added tofu and rice noodles, thinking they’d absorb the rich chicken flavor.

They didn’t.

By the next day, the noodles had turned purple.

When I helped myself to some for lunch, they snorted, sounding like geese. I wondered if they were laughing at me.

On the plus side, the flavor had a comeback.

It tastes like chicken.