Friday, July 24, 2009

My Mother and Making Marshmallows

As I stood in the kitchen measuring, stirring, rummaging for mixing bowls in the cabinet today,

This week my mom is here visiting. A month and 5 days ago, she lost her mother. I want to sit with her, to ask her how she feels, what this loss is like, but in the excitement of Eden's new walking, the persistence of Silas's questions, the chaos of moving us to and from anywhere, and the exhaustion that saturates us by the end of the day, we haven't had much space for talking.

But today, we met in the kitchen. I'd just been thinking about how my kitchen is a haven, a place where I can work with my hands, where sound from upstairs doesn't travel, where my mind is freed and I can move at my own pace. Standing back to back, one at the mixer, the other at the stove, it seemed natural that this is where we'd begin to talk.

Loss is a strange thing because there are no constants in it. Sadness breathes and strikes unexpectedly. We talked about this. And about remembering. About setting aside time to remember, remembering as an activity. About how we'll never be able to remember what's been more vividly than we can right now. We talked about the impulse to blame and about the necessity of choosing not to. We talked about forgiveness. About emptiness. About losing a mother and a grandmother.

And as we did, we made our first-ever batch of marshmallows, which seemed just right: an old-fashioned, take-your-time confection while we talked about Nana. The process reminded my mom of making taffy as a girl with her mother, pulling the candy with buttered hands until it was stiff enough to cut and wrap in paper; which reminded me of making popcorn balls as a girl with my mother, rolling the hot sticky balls with buttered hands and setting them to cool. And that's how cooking together goes -- story to story.

* * *

Ina Garten's Homemade Marshmallows:

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Generously coat a 9x11" pan with confectioners sugar and turn marshmallow (which really means wrestle marshmallow) into the pan. Dust the top with marshmallow and let sit over night to dry out.

The next day, remove the marshmallows from the pan and cut into squares. Roll the sides of each piece carefully in confectioners' sugar. Store uncovered at room temperature.


jkalea said...

Fabulous story -- I love making marshmallows from scratch too. xoxo

Beautiful said...

Bronwen, I just read this on the eve of Eli's departure. It seems fitting to re-feel the connection tonight, and the loss. You how to capture everything...