Maple tastes like memory

“Happy Maple Weekend!” as Todd said in his “Taste of Friday” feature yesterday, touting his recipe for braided egg bread flavored with maple syrup and walnuts. I tasted, and it did make me happy. I have a sweet tooth, and never more so than when it comes to our own tree-based sweetener.

It started with my first winter in the North Country, in 1958. After dinner one night, my mom got a jar of maple syrup out of the refrigerator. Being four, going on five, I thought, “Cool! Pancakes for dessert.” But instead, she poured the whole thing into a saucepan and turned on the burner. I got up onto the step stool to watch as she stirred. Something new was happening.

Tasting maple taffy. Photo: Library and Archives Canada< Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Tasting maple taffy. Photo: Library and Archives Canada, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

After a few minutes she said, “Put on your jacket, we’re going outside.” It was kind of late to be going out to play and big fat flakes were falling thickly, but OK. Then I noticed she had the saucepan and a potholder. And then my jaw dropped as she took the hot syrup and poured it all out over the fresh snow in the yard. At that age I didn’t know much, but I knew these rules, 1) Don’t waste food!, 2) Don’t make a mess!, and–in a town that heated with coal and was overrun by unchained dogs, 3) Don’t eat the snow!

Without explanation, she collected long droopy amber strings off the snow and we went back inside. Once gathered back around the table, she passed a bowl of it around and just nodded as if to say, “Eat!”

Magic. It has no rules; it needs no explanation.


2 Comments on “Maple tastes like memory”

  1. David Duff says:

    Nice. Eat it. Heard it at the dinner table often. All of it.

  2. Laurie and Ron says:

    Ahh, memories! I was born in Philly, PA, and spent my formative years on Long Island, but my parents were from the North Country. When my mother introduced our largely southern European neighbors to “jackwax”, it was quite exotic to them and they went crazy for the stuff! I felt I finally could claim a “cuisine”. They had octopus and squid and figs; I had maple taffy and other North Country “delicacies” (popcorn and milk in a bowl among them.) I’ve been told that many of my childhood friends have passed the tradition to their own children. Cool.
    My teeth may not appreciate it anymore, but reading the post was sweet enough for me. Thanks, Dale!

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