A corner turned

The journey home from the depression outposts in the brain is long and tedious, frustrating and sometimes boring. It’s hard to write about because you realize that it’s such an internal process and really can’t be that interesting to other people. It’s repetitive and introspective and most certainly centered on yourself. Also, it’s damned hard to find the will or the energy to put together more than a few sentences and when you do manage to get something down, you’re filled with doubt about its worth. So you delete it.
Winter is here. Fuck winter and the grey days and early sunsets. I used to relate to the myth of Persephone and her yearly underworld journey. That pervasive feeling of being lost and trapped and hopeless. I’ve recently re-read the story and had a real shift of perspective. It’s not Persephone who suffers loss and hopelessness but her mother, Demeter. Mostly, this is neither here nor there, just rambling observations and a new perspective on a story that I read often.
But! There was a corner turned (as the title of this post would lead you to believe). There have been many little successes in therapy over the past year, different ways in which I could see my progress, but recently I had a moment of revelation and a feeling that there is more than hope at the core of this journey.
What is this corner I turned? How have things changed?
First, the set up: Let’s say I’m watching a movie where a main character is struggling to survive, maybe she’s being chased by an chainsaw wielding lunatic. She’s running and screaming and there’s goodly tension and the audience is scared for her. For years, while most of my brain would be pulling for her to survive, there was a part of my brain that wasn’t. Part of my brain was quietly saying, “just stop. Stop running, stop screaming, just stop, turn around and give yourself to the monster (or let go of the ledge and fall or stop repairing your space ship and go to sleep). Death was scary, but it was also a major relief. I would look at these characters and think, “death sucks, but man, at least this shit will be over and you can rest.”
Just let go. Let go and free yourself from this misery. Release is yours if you want it. Of course, it’s wasn’t just movies and books but also in my day to day life. Logically, I knew I did not want to get into a car accident or get hit by a bus or slip in the shower…but part of me always sort of hoped it would happen. Quick and passive and then it would be over. Then I could find relief.
Then, something peculiar happened. David and I were watching a movie, can’t remember what it was. At some point there was some sort of tense movie shootout something or other and a lot of tension regarding the survival of one of the characters. I’m watching this and that part of my brain that so reliably says, “death isn’t such a terrible things…” isn’t there. It’s gone. It’s been replaced by a much louder and more insistent, “HOLY SHIT! Run! You’re….I’m not ready to die!”
I’m not ready to die.
I do not know how it happened or when it happened but my mind turned a corner. I do not want to die, not even accidentally. I do want relief, but now, for the first time in years, I can see and believe that relief is possible in this life. I can be alive and be relieved of this burden in my head and my heart. For the first time in years I believe that today might suck, and tomorrow might suck, but the day after that might not and it actually is worth it to stick around and find out.
Was it the therapy? The meds? The cyclical nature of depression? I honestly don’t know, but I suspect it is a combination of all three working together. I don’t think it could have happened with one of those elements missing, it had to be a combination of those and probably other factors that I don’t even know about. But there it is, some hope.
Winter is hard. It’s a grueling grind for me every year. This year I can definitely see the effects of the season on me in my lack of motivation and my urge to sleep all day. I can see these effects but I can also see that they have limits and boundaries, they are not all powerful and they are a burden but they won’t sink me this year. They can be managed and overcome. I can survive this and this time, I actually do want to survive it.

I am fat and so can you!

People have asked for it over and over and I am finally sharing it! It’s not that I meant to withhold it from you, it’s just that…well, I’m lazy and hadn’t gotten around to typing it up.
So, without further inane babbling, let me share with you my recipes for ginger caramels and espresso caramels.
I did a bunch of research on caramels and honed the basic ratios down to this:
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream (not ultra pasteurized)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 stick butter
If you use unsalted butter you might want to throw a pinch of salt in there. I use salted butter. You want to know why? Because I like it, that’s why!
I used to spend a lot of time in cooking newsgroups and forums and one thing above all else is true in any focused community: everyone has an opinion and they will be an asshole to the death to defend it. If there is one lesson I’ve learned over and over again in this great journey of going crazy and coming back again it’s that people’s opinions are a lot like their assholes, something you know to exist but you don’t really have to spend a lot of time thinking about. I use salted butter, I will put out a cheese platter before a meal with fish and I like bbq sauce on my ribs.
Okay, back to the caramels.
I recommend at least doubling this if not quadrupling or hectupling (sixtupling? 6xing?). It is much easier to control the temperature on a larger batch and you might even find that your candy thermometer won’t get an accurate read because it cannot be adequately submerged.
If you are making espresso caramels you will want 2 shots of espresso for every iteration of the base recipe. Today I made a quadruple batch so I had 8 shots of espresso in there. Mix your espresso, butter, cream, sugar and corn syrup together in the pot.
If you want to make ginger caramels you will want to make ginger syrup first. Ginger syrup goes like this: calculate out how much sugar you will need for your caramels (4 cups if you are quadrupling, etc) and dump that in your pot, with water at a 2:1 sugar to water ratio (the ratio doesn’t need to be super accurate). matchstick about a quarter hand of ginger for every cup of sugar, no need to peel it. Add the ginger to the sugar water and bring to a rolling boil (a rolling boil is a boil that is not diminished by stirring) and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain the ginger out of the liquid and save to snack on later.
Put the ginger syrup into your pot with the butter and cream and corn syrup and then go on to the next step.
You’re going to want to use a big pot, like the big pot you boil pasta in. As this mixture starts to boil it expands like my ass at Thanksgiving. Cleaning the pre-caramel boil over mess from your stove is a job that sucks so bad that even terrible people feel bad about making nice people do it! BIG POT!! Use a BIG POT!!!
So you have everything in your BIG GIANT POT! bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Some people say that the heat can be turned all the way up for this, but I have found that when I have the heat on high for the initial boiling I tend to find scorched remains on the bottom of my pot. Could be a correlation not causation things, I don’t know, I use medium heat. Once the mixture is at a boil do not futz with it. You will want to futz with it, you will want to maybe stir it or shake it or mess with it. Don’t. Leave it alone. You will notice blops of protein scum forming on the surface and you will want to futz with those. Do not futz with them. they will be reabsorbed. DO NOT FUTZ!
At this point there is not much for you to do, you just let it boil and bubble away. Liberally butter a jelly roll pan and set aside. Then I recommend loading or unloading your dishwasher and maybe thinking about your butt for a while.
The mixture will stay at 212 degrees Fahrenheit/100 degrees Celsius for a long time. It will stay at that temp so long as there is water to be cooked out of the mixture. Once it starts rising above 212/100 degrees f/c you’ll want to keep a close eye on the thermometer.
Candy thermometer or that ice water thingy for measuring the temp of the mixture? If you are comfortable with the various stages of the ice water method (soft ball, firm balls, soft crack, hard crack, whatever) then by all means go for it. I find it to be futzy and I am never sure if I am doing it right so I stick with a candy thermometer.
Once the mixture hits 248 degrees Fahrenheit/120 degrees Celsius remove from heat and pour into your buttered pan. You’ll want to move quickly to get this off the heat and into the pan because it’s only a few degrees between chewy caramels and crunchy caramels (which are equally delicious, just harder to chew). I let them cool and set over night. When you’re ready with hundreds of little wax paper rectangles you can get down to the business of cutting and wrapping the individual candies, a repetitive and thankless activity that nonetheless makes distributing the caramels amongst your friends and family easier.
Please be careful when making caramels. This mixture gets hot, really really hot and sugar, especially very hot sugar, sticks to your skin. The burns hurt like hell and they hurt for a long time. Be careful!!!
Be careful and be delicious!