Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve walk in the rain

It's Christmas Eve, and it's raining, but I set a goal to leave my apartment once a day during the break and I already skipped it yesterday. Even though the only place I needed to go was the grocery store, I decided to make a brief trip downtown, where it was oddly quiet.

tree in window

Market Square was mostly deserted, except for a few people on the temporary ice rink, and Gay Street was equally empty:

Gay Street on Christmas Eve

Christmas tree in the rain

I ended up walking to both bridges and back up Main Street:

round building

united methodist steps

because it was warm and had stopped raining, and I spent some time looking at the nativity scene in front of the First Baptist Church:

first baptist church (1)

first baptist church (2)

first baptist church (3)

(I really like that one)

first baptist church (4)

first baptist church (5)

and then I went to the grocery store, where I watched someone try to park in the cart corral and a student came up to me at the register to thank me for helping her get her late fees and payment issues resolved.

I hope everyone has a good Christmas, if they are celebrating one, or just a good day tomorrow.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Maybe This Time: The Return of the Carnation Famous Fudge Kit

Two years ago, I tried to make fudge with the Carnation Famous Fudge Kit, with mixed success. I had some tasty fudge, but the top layer was grainy and flaky. I summed it up at the time with this quote:

"My fudge looks like an old pioneer woman's face."

Last year, I tried again. I believed that I had conquered the original problem because I realized that I used margarine instead of butter and I paused for several seconds before adding the marshmallows and chocolate chips rather than dumping them right in like the box said to, because I hadn't pre-opened their bags as part of my mis en place.

It was, again, a partial failure: Creamy middle, flaky top.

This year, I was sure it would be different. I decided to switch to a different pot, as the old pot was possibly unlucky, and carried the taint of past attempts. I decided to slightly lower the temperature of the sugar/milk/butter mixture, in case it was so hot that it was crystallizing the chocolate chips instead of melting them. Possibly most importantly, I decided to maintain a positive attitude by blasting a preplanned soundtrack while making the fudge, and singing along at the top of my lungs: I set "Maybe This Time" from "Cabaret" on repeat, and belted the hell out of it while stirring.

It is a song of hope, an anthem of optimism, but after this year it could also end up being a tragic ode to culinary failure.

Whether this was the case wasn't immediately apparent, though. My fudge spread smoothly into the pan provided, and while it didn't look swirly and glossy it also didn't look like I ran sandpaper over the top. I put it into the fridge to set, and then I had some potentially disgusting holiday snacks to entertain myself while waiting.

Snack #1: Target's Red Velvet Holiday Chocolate Milk

red velvet milk (1)

I saw this in the grocery department of the Supertarget the other night, and was curious enough to buy it. I like red velvet cake, but I also know that it's just chocolate cake with dye in it. Logically, this should just taste like chocolate milk, right?

Before you can see what it tastes like, though, you have to get past the color:

red velvet milk (2)

It looks like a cup of paint. It looks like the blood of some animal that Klingons would feed their children. Worf should be slamming a glass of this onto the table in front of Alexander and telling him to drink his blood milk or go to bed without dinner.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't drink it, though, right?


You shouldn't drink this.

The color has nothing to do with that, though. As predicted, this tastes like chocolate milk, but it tastes like white chocolate, that vile, waxy fake chocolate that doesn't have any real chocolate in it at all. It's a very distinctive flavor, and that's what this "holiday milk" tastes like: the worst kind of chocolate in the world.

Eager to cleanse my palate, I reached for:

Snack #2: Pumpkin Pie Spice Pringles

pumpkin pie spice pringles

For when regular Pringles aren't gross enough.

I'll be honest: I like pumpkin pie, but I'm rather dubious of anything else that's flavored like it. I don't enjoy the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte that everyone seems to go crazy over every year, but I did like that pumpkin spice eggnog that I drank once, so maybe the Pringles would somehow be delicious.

When I opened them, they smelled really strongly of pumpkin pie, not just the spices but the whole smell of filling and crust. The chips themselves look like regular Pringles, but if you look closely they have little brown spots on them, which I guess are the flavoring. They could use a ton more spots, though, because they don't taste like anything. It's like eating a can of unflavored Pringles. Intrigued, I tried eating two at once, then three, and finally four at the same time before I got even a slight hint of something other than Pringle.

I don't understand how they can smell so much like pumpkin pie without tasting like it. They're like eating chips of potpourri.

Somewhat disappointed, I turned to the final holiday snack:

Snack #3: White Chocolate Peppermint Pringles

white chocolate peppermint pringles

I had the lowest expectations for these, because of my feelings about white chocolate, which I mentioned above, but I figured that they would probably end up being as bland and tasteless as the Pumpkin Pie Spice Pringles were. When I opened them, the smell convinced me that I was probably right: it smelled like the cardboard inside of a Pringles can. Remembering how blandly flavored the other ones were, I stuck three into my mouth at once.

And then lurched to the sink to spit them out.

I'm not sure I can properly convey this, but imagine a baked potato topped with white chocolate chips and a spritz of creme de menthe. Now imagine that you have a mouthful of it. I went for the sink because the garbage can was further away and I didn't think I would make it.

I will not eat another bite of these. Instead, I will take the can to work, put it on the table in the kitchen, and walk away.

What happens to them after that isn't my affair.

What is my affair, though, is this year's attempt at the famous fudge.

I had so much hope.

I stirred vigorously, as instructed.

I belted over my stove, at the top of my lungs, that, "It's gonna happen! Happen sometime! Maybe this time... maybe this time, I'llllllllll..... WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN!"

And what did I end up with?

Fudge that is slightly rough on top, but so glossy, smooth, and creamy inside that it reflects the pan in its surface. Look:

shiny fudge

Look at the white pan reflected in the fudge. It's so close to perfect that I could weep.

Or my eyes may just still be tearing from the effort not to vomit up those Pringles.