Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Square Meal




I woke up at 5.45 a.m. on Sunday, to the sound of a howling wind and the droning and crunching of a snow plow somewhere out there in the lonely early morning dark. I had gone to bed at 3.00 a.m. after a day and evening of Christmas celebrations. The house was still night-time cold, so I snuggled down deeper within the covers, although I knew that I shouldn't. I needed to be up baking squares for the Christmas Pot-Luck lunch at church.
An hour later, with the house getting warmer, I made a supreme effort and exited the bed. In the bathroom downstairs I brushed my teeth and threw on whatever garments I could lay my hands on, just to be warm. Getting ready for the day would come later, after the baking!

It was still dark and snow swirled around the windows. Outside the temperature was frigid, but inside the Christmas tree in the hallway twinkled with brightly coloured lights and I put on some Christmas music by Canadian singer/songwriter Ali Matthews and cracked open a cookbook. To the strains of her lovely voice, singing, "Looking for Christmas," I looked at a recipe called, Caramel Toffee Squares, that said, "Make this one of the first recipes you try;" so I did.

On Saturday I had bought a random assortment of ingredients based on a glance at the book: Sweetened condensed milk, crushed pineapple, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, chopped pecans--oh--and graham cracker crumbs. I don't normally make squares, so I was a little out of my comfort zone.

I stirred and melted, drained and patted, and the hours flew by. As I lifted each pyrex glass container out of the oven, I carefully carried them out to our enclosed glass front porch, to "chill." It was definitely "chilly" out there.

I was just cleaning up the debris after my third recipe, when Paul came downstairs, dressed and ready for church, to find me in black rimmed glasses, light green nightie, covered by a flour covered black zippered sweater, over black yoga pants and surrounded by pots, pans and the scattered remnants of a frenzy of baking.
This is where Paul entered a danger zone, for he said, "Why are you doing this? M and M's has squares that are perfectly good; you should have just bought them."

Along with the chocolate, walnuts and flour, I had just poured my heart into those squares, so I said something snippy and very uncharitable, like, "Brenda is taking M & M squares. You can have some of those if you prefer them."

He muttered, "Now you are just being silly."
Don't you sometimes just wish you could rewind a conversation? At the back of my mind I could hear 1 Corinthians 13, The Love Chapter, reminding me that if I made the most delicious squares but had no love, I was just a resounding gong or clanging cymbal (my paraphrase.)

I cleaned the cluttered kitchen and went to get ready for church....

An hour later I brought in the now very chilled squares from the porch, and laid out Christmas napkins on two large, round platters. I started with the Caramel Toffee Squares, which I had made first, as the book suggested, and which therefore had been out in the cold porch the longest. The knife would not penetrate the top layer of chocolate, which had hardened into a frozen shield. I stabbed, sawed, heated the knife in hot water, and finally achieved the sawing up of 3/4 of a 9 x13 pan of Caramel Toffee Squares into oddly shaped chunks. I might have had more success with a chain saw from the garage, but fortunately for my church family, I didn't think of that.

The pineapple squares and "magic" squares were easier to cut, but all of them scattered a lot of crumbs, which of course, since I don't make squares normally, I had to test to see how they tasted.

By the time I had everything packed into the car, and ready to go, I felt very full. Squares are made from the sweetest of sweet ingredients and the thought of the turkey lunch at church was a bit overwhelming.

I called my friend Neena to tell her I was on my way to pick her up from the group home where she lives. She came out, bundled in her fur coat, bearing a silver tin full of brownies that she had baked, more wisely than I, a few days ahead of time.

As we drove together to church (an hour late, Paul having gone on ahead--on time), we laughed at how full I felt and how she had had to keep all of her housemates away from the brownies by telling them, "No, these are for church!" The caloric content in the car was high and so were we--on laughter and Christmas spirit.
Somewhere since Sunday I said, "I'm sorry for my very unsweet retort."
"That's allright, let's forget it," he said, "I was just concerned for you."
"Yes, I know."
All is peaceful, for now, in Belindaland.

9 comments:

Night Owl said...

Dear Belinda,
The squares you made sound delicious, even if they weren't exactly in your comfort zone.
I really admire and love and have a deep respect for how Paul answered your snappiness. Wow.

This story reminds me of this experience I had with my first kind of "adult toothpaste": "I looked at a recipe called, Caramel Toffee Squares, that said, "Make this one of the first recipes you try;" so I did." hehehe It's very funny how I thought of this, but anyway, I will share it with you anyway. (I can't sleep in any case.)

I think I was about 3 years old - I'd just started to read. And I was using the pink bubblegum flavoured kids toothpaste up until then. But we had just run out of the good kids kind of toothpaste, so at first, I refused to brush my teeth.
Soon after, I decided that I wouldn't be able to sleep if I didn't brush my teeth first. You know, routine, and all that.
So I tiptoed back to the washroom as quietly as possible, and proceeded to examine the tube of toothpaste that my parents used. I don't remember what brand it was (I think it started with an "A" for some reason). On the tube, it said something like "Canadians Love the Taste of [name of toothpaste]".
So I thought, well, if everyone else likes it, it can't possibly be as horrible as I think. And I should probably try to be more "cool", and like an adult, and at least try it, and try to like it!
So I tried it and it was the most AWFUL thing I'd ever put in my mouth.
Even so, the next morning, I told my parents that I tried their toothpaste and it wasn't so bad. And my reason for it not being so bad was that I am Canadian and therefore I am meant to love the taste of this toothpaste.
Moral of story: Just because other people love the taste of the awful minty toothpaste, or think this recipe is the best first recipe to try, doesn't mean you have to like it too. (That is, maybe don't give up on squares entirely because of one bake-fest gone difficult. But I'm not saying that they weren't successful - I'm sure many people enjoyed your squares, Belinda! I bet I probably would have because I like crunchy/chewy/difficult to chew foods. Not sure why though... :))
Just for the record though, I no longer use bubblegum flavoured toothpaste, hehehehe. :)
Love, Night Owl

Night Owl said...

PS I love the term "Belindaland" :)

Night Owl said...

PS Of course Caramel Toffee Squares are supposed to be super hard and chewy! :) It's caramel plus toffee. Those are possibly two of the chewiest foods in existence.

Belinda said...

Night Owl, I LAUGHED at the image of the 3 year old Night Owl, being bravely Canadian and trying to grit her teeeth through the minty toothpaste! :)
Love and blessings!

Susan said...

I don't know which I enjoyed more - your story or NightOwl's reaction to it!

It's interesting how we all prepared for the annual Christmas dinner at church. You slaved away over a hot stove making squares. I admire you for that. :) My contribution was 10 lbs of mashed potatoes (which was doubled by me to 20 lbs when I checked the sign-up list and realized that there were only two of us bringing mashed potatoes and worrying about hungry hordes of potato-less parishioners). Anyway, my husband offered to take care of peeling, cooking and mashing the 20 pounds of potatoes, so I went back to bed. I left the house with them later in a big soup pot, carefully wrapped up in two sleeping bags where they stayed nice and hot despite the blustery wind and frigid temperatures. (Gotta love that bow-tied man!)

And having tasted one of each kind of your squares at the Christmas Dinner, declare them to have been delicious indeed! And well worth the effort (while I slept, of course.) As to how they compare to the M&M's ones that Brenda took, I wouldn't know. I didn't think to try one of those!

Belinda said...

M & M's definitely have their place! And there would have been NO squares if Brenda would have had to make them! :)

Angcat said...

I absolutely loved the image of Belinda in 'black rimmed glasses, light green nightie, covered by a flour covered black zippered sweater,over black yoga pants and surrounded by...scattered remnants of a frenzy of baking'.
And Paul stepping into the midst of that with what he had to say. He's probably lucky he didn't end up in the oven.
I literally laughed my guts out, well not right out, but you know.
Thanks for all this imagery. It made my morning.
:-)

Marilyn said...

Excuse me. I'm off to scavenge for a sweet. :-)

Meg said...

Yummy story. Good for Paul. And I like Belindaland.