I used to be an optimist. Then I got punched in the mouth and all that changed.
It was grade school. I had three text books tucked under my arm and I was walking down the hall to 6th period. Enter a toothy, female redhead with sharp, splintery eyes. A Goliath to my then 5-foot tall body. A freakish, oafish, pale giant who interrupted my carefree stride with a pointer finger to my chest.
“I heard what you said about my friend,” she said, edging closer to my face.
My heart thumped through the sides of my head.
“Who is your friend?” I asked.
“Diane.” she said. “And she has a message for you.”
Before I could ask who Diane was – in that very moment – I felt a white, hot pain in my upper lip. A whiz of motion had erupted as her white-knuckle hand met my mouth, sending the back of my head into a row of lockers. Meanwhile, my knees buckled and I slid down the wall like a pool of mud.
As I took stock of remaining teeth and blood and pride, I looked up at her and searched for words. I spoke the only ones I could find.
“Well, she sounds like a bitch.”
I never did figure out who Diane was, nor did I ever tell anyone what had happened in the hallway that day. But I did find solace and comfort in another person later in the evening. My mother. Sensing my gloominess, she made up a batch of her very own homemade caramel sauce. Then she ladled it over apple slices in grand proportion – raising her eyebrows as it circled into my bowl.
I smiled, cracked lip and all.
And so, even back then, I was old enough to know that in a sometimes very cruel world, a little sugar is all the sweetness you need.
This is a recipe from Katie Workman, my friend, who visited recently from New York to promote her new book, The Mom 100 Cookbook. It’s a collection of recipes anybody can make, on any day of the week. Busted lip or not.
Recipe form Katie Workman, author of The Mom 100 Cookbook
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Ice cream or apples for slicing
In a relatively small pot, combine 1/4 cup of water and the sugar. Place the pot over medium-low heat and heat until the sugar dissolves. Swirl the liquid gently every 30 seconds or so by picking the pot up by the handle and whirling around – not by stirring with a spoon. When the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to medium-high and let the mixture come to a boil. After 10-12 minutes, and the mixture has turned golden brown, take the pan off the heat and whisk in the heavy cream.
The mixture should be amber – but not burned. [Katie Workman note: Don't be scared if the mixture sputters or bubbles when you add the cream.] Whisk the caramel sauce until it is well combined and smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and let the sauce cool. Once thickened considerably, serve.
Busted lip optional.