31 Oct 2011
The other night I came home from work to find that my amazing wife had made caramel. If you are anything like me, you are thinking, “You can make caramel at home?”. It can, and apparently it doesn’t require anything in the way of special ingredients (mostly sweetened condensed milk and sugar), or any special equipment (a stove and a pot). The real surprise, however, was how complex and delicious the caramel was. Sure it had a caramel flavor, and was sweet, but there was so much more: a little bit of spice, savory undertones, things I can’t quite put into words. My entire caramel-eating life has been a lie.
I’ve been noticing this a lot, recently. The garlic that we grow in our garden bears little resemblance to the homogenous white bulbs you can find at the store (and easy, too, put garlic in the ground in the fall, then forget about it until the next summer and harvest). The honey from her bees is some of the best stuff I have ever tasted. The Dr. Horrible suit that she made for me a couple of years ago is one of the most comfortable pieces of clothing I own. The list goes on.
It may sound like I’m about to advocate a sort of Hairshirt Environmentalism (although I to believe that we over-consume), and say that everyone should be making their own socks from scratch. I’m not. I have no desire to go back to a preindustrial society in which what we would consider basic necessities are reserved for the wealthy and everyone else must do without. Rather, I’m saying that we shouldn’t unquestioningly accept poor quality so that we may have cheap abundance. Or to put it another way, eat at McDonalds if you want, but you do yourself a disservice if you never take the time to make your own caramel even once.