I watched her move in the kitchen, with a frenetic pace that I’m sure, if bottled, could power the universe.
“This candy is so fussy,” she said. “One minute, it’s cooking and the next moment, it’s just a mess.”
She means overdue, past done, a big seized-up situation not worthy of the name dulce de leche candy. My mother is busy stirring, watching the pot for the perfect moment and I haven’t seen her this way in years. In fact, I haven’t seen her try to make this candy from my childhood since… I was a child. Watching her is exhausting and exciting and I’m mightily aware that this moment matters, probably more than any other moment in recent years.
Well, there was one moment that rivaled this one. It was a couple years back, when she was in between treatments. I was invited to Provincetown, the very tip of the state, for a business meeting. One night near the ocean felt like the right time to get her away from Boston, away from her rigorous medical schedule, away from cancer.
Just before a dinner party off Race Point Road, I noticed the sun was setting and decided that a drive to capture its final moments was worth being just a wee bit late to dinner. We drove and drove, a few miles further than I had planned, and as we perched over the highest hill, we saw it. The sun had spread out to color in all of the blue of the sky and the blue of the ocean. In fact, there was no sky nor ocean, just reams of golden light.
My mother whispered, definitely wonderstruck, “Maggie, it looks like heaven.”
And, you bet, I cried a little under my thick sunglasses, broad enough to cover every last tear, I think. She had a moment and then I had a moment and without looking at each other, we knew it mattered. We didn’t talk about it really. We parked the car, stared for a few minutes, and then decided that we were too far past fashionably late.
We didn’t talk about the dulce de leche candy moment either. I watched her miss the perfect candy stage, tossing away the pot of crumbly sweetened milk. She quickly started another batch, keeping her hawk-like attention to stirring and testing the texture.
My mother finally got it almost right, though she was never quite satisfied with the result. No matter, because, it tasted like every single sweet memory from age seven to about twelve, when I’d tear into our family kitchen for three minutes to slice off a taste from the candy plate, sneaking out before being noticed.
I’m in love with this candy and so tempted to keep it all for myself. But I have the moment so you’ll get the recipe, you know, the very moment we get it just right for the cookbook.
I’m thinking about my mother all the time, but especially at this Mother’s Day. We’re planning a pretty food-filled morning. I put together a gift box for your Mother, if you’re looking for something extra special. It’s filled with so much, including an equally special candy. Yum.
All photos taken by Maggie Battista. Gift box photo taken and styled by Heidi Murphy/White Loft Studio.
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