life is dulce

I jotted three phrases on my left hand, on the fleshy chunk between index and thumb.

RUNNER HANDS

PERIOD SNAX

6:34

The truck was parked and I was about to slide out to pick up this week’s CSA box (wet lettuce. too many radishes). The good ideas usually zip through my brain while I’m engaged (car steering/bike cruising/burrito eating) and I have to flex and keep my muscles taut and hold it until I’m safe and secure to jot them all down. This is often as painful as trying to hold a bladder full of black coffee. While cruising down Nicollet avenue I thought of the hands of a runner I had seen on my commute home, loose at his sides but palms angled inward and he was gliding through the air like a seal pup. On Thursday morning last week I saw another runner who look as if they were pulling shapes, bouncing to an imaginary house song in their mind. I want to explore this concept further, maybe start to add some fresh choreography to my own jog. 6:34 references the moment on the clock when I was fully absorbed in a tasty base line that was thumping through my speakers and knew I’d have to look it up later or it would haunt me (WEIGHT OFF by KAYTRANADA). My mood was grouchy, my muscles tense and I had spent most of the day fantasizing about the chocolate cake mix that was on the top shelf of my cupboard. THE FLOW COMETH. I don’t have any menstruation rituals as I am irritated about the inconvenience of mopping up body fluids for a few days and the reminder that I’m essentially a baby basket. But I will fully use my period as an excuse to consume whatever my whim desires, which varies from pork gravy poutine to hot fudge sundaes. I wondered if anyone has compiled a book of period snacks (beyond this Bloodfeast column, which is genius) and my mind came up short. Google also confirmed later that this does not exist. It’s a booming menstrual market out there and someone need to take advantage of the general public’s love of novelty cookbook.

At home hoping to crack open the box of Emergency Cake Mix,  I discover the fridge is egg-less (much like my uterus! ba-boom-ching!) and finding the only sweet thing in the panty to be a can of sweetened condensed milk, I decide to take a chance on a recipe that I’ve known about for a while but been too neurotic to try: boil-in-the-can dulce de leche.

I’m not an avid fan of dulce de leche, due to an arduous long weekend in Buenos Aires during my South American years. Dulce de leche is a culinary delight that seems to be one of the few things that can warm the cold Argentinean heart and I’ve never said no to caramel in any of its forms. Let’s give it a whirl! Because this recipe has an edge of DANGER. And that’s sexy.

The process is simple. You take a can of sweetened condensed milk and peel off the label. You put it in a pot on the stove, cover it with water until it has about an inch above the top rim of the can and simmer that sucker for 2-3 hours, flipping in over once. It is important to note that the water should NEVER dip below the top rim of the can or explosions can happen. The label on the can will instruct you to NEVER attempt this recipe due to the risk of explosions. But if you’re anxiety prone and always setting timers for the most non necessary tasks and are petrified at the thought of gooey metal shrapnel spraying throughout your rental kitchen, I think it’ll be just fine. Just mind your Ps and Qs. 

 

I set the can to simmer and lounged on the couch reading about feminist utopias. Let my mind wonder. Tried not to page through Instagram. 60 minutes goes by and I use the long tongs to flip the can, splashing scalding water all over the stove top. Patience low. I wait another 60 minutes and fetch out the can and let it sit in the sink with some cool water running on it. The instructional from the internet were also heavy handed in their warning not to open the can while it is hot because it could spray hot molten caramel. For anyone who has not burned themselves with molten sugar, let me inform you that those burns are the very very worst. It is why I haven’t attempted to make homemade marshmallows again. A few minutes later I prodded the top of the can with my thumb and it wasn’t scalding but a few moments after gripping it, steady heat poured into my palm and I recognized it’s true potential. For the next 30 minutes I used the caramel can as a hobo’s heating pad, setting it between my shoulder blades and rubbing it up and down hamstrings and rolling it under my stiff feet. I purred and stretched like a fat cat.. Yet the question remained: when do I pop this sucker open? How hot is too hot for spraying caramel? After the can lost its muscle soothing powers and became just a regular dud, I figured it was as good of time as any. The top of the can was embossed with a tiny Buddha surrounded by stars and the word LONGEVITY which made me chuckle as I discovered the “best before March 2016” date stamped on the side. I asked the tiny god for luck and cranked the sucker open.

No spurt no spray. Just the most glossy tan creme I’ve ever seen. I plunged a spoon in and brought it straight to my face. IT WAS STILL WARM. It was so mind scrambling satisfying that my brain stopped completely and found the first scrap of data it could find to fill the void. It was the sweet sounds of J.Lo. Nothing else mattered. And then, friends, I remembered that I had a half gallon of french vanilla ice cream in the fridge. *the whole stadium cheers*  A bowl materialized in the pleasure haze and I was scooping that ice cream in and slopping the dulce de leche over and forgiving Argentina for producing obnoxious men who kept their signed copy of the Maradona autobiography wrapped in velvet, empanadas with hard boiled eggs and strange vowel pronunciations.

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I forgive I forgive! For the rest of the night I had dairy phlegm coughs but did not care as my ovaries had settled in for a midsummer rest and I could lounge and read about the wide feminist frontier. Menstruation abided