A true story today.
I could never really see. When it comes to my eyes, my earliest related memory is of me, sitting on the bathroom floor as my mother bathed my little brother. I was four and when I told her I was seeing two of everything, she froze, her shoulders hunched over the tub, my brother blinking owlishly behind her.
As I grew older, my vision worsened. I saw the world through an endless string of glasses, some as thick as the bottoms of Coke bottles, and everything beyond that thick pane of glass was a hazy blur. When I was in elementary school, I became a mastermind of pure evil when it came to finding ways of “accidentally” scratching or breaking my glasses. One time, I casually placed them glass-side down on the row of bricks that lined our driveway so they would scratch. Another time, (I cannot believe I’m admitting this) I placed them on the edge of my desk at school and timed it so that when the teacher walked up our row, I nudged the glasses off my desk with my elbow. They fell to the floor and she stepped on them. Yes. I actually did that. I was like a young Mr. Burns. “You broke my glasses. Excellent.”
Then contacts came, glorious, face-freeing contacts. Well, they were glorious until the end of that first day when, in a furniture store, I brought the room of customers to a halt when I insisted one of them had fallen out and screamed, “NOBODY MOVE.” It turned out, of course, that the lense was in my eye the whole time so “False alarm everyone! Please go about your furniture-related business!” I got better about them. By the time I was twenty, I could put my contacts into my eyes, in the dark, with one hand trapped behind my back and no contact solution to be found for miles- like some kind of nerd Houdini.
Sometimes, my lack of vision was a blessing like when I was feeling less than pretty and faced my blurry, naked form in the bathroom mirror- I could fool myself, however temporarily, into believing I looked however I liked. I cursed it most in the morning, when I would roll over and see nothing but gauzy green numbers instead of the time I needed or when I was in Italy, trying to find the phrase “contact solution” in an Italian-American dictionary.
I did not intend to talk about this today at all. Today is the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s death and I sat down to write about that- I would not be in the kitchen without her influence, after all. She was my Italian grandma- a matriarch in every sense of the world (with the great-grandchildren in droves to prove it) but she didn’t chase us around with a rolling pin- she ruled with gentle hands and a quiet laugh. She was the purest soul I’ve honestly ever known and when she wanted to feed us, she fed us well. She found peace in the kitchen, like my mother does, and she felt more at home there than anywhere else, as I do now.
One week ago, I had surgery. I got my eyes back. I can see. I take the dog out for a walk now and find myself stopping on corners, staring up at the winding wires atop transformers, the barest buds on trees, the wrinkles on the water. The surgery was a gift from my grandmother. One year later and it feels like she’s still guiding my steps, still helping me find my way.
Every morning now, I open my eyes, determined not to take either gift for granted.
Chocolate & Peppermint Patties
Make ahead: Patties will keep, chilled, for 1 month. Bring to room temperature before serving.
2 and 1/2 Cups of confectioners/powdered sugar (less than 1 pound), divided
1 and 1/2 TBsps of light corn syrup
1 and 1/2 TBsps of water (more if needed)
1/2 teaspoon of pure peppermint extract
1 TBSP of vegetable shortening
10 ounces of 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1. Ready an electric mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment. Beat 2 and 1/4 cups of powdered sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, shortening and a pinch of salt at medium speed until just combined. Mixture will be crumbly.
2. Sprinkle powdered sugar on work surface and knead mixture with remaining 1/4 cup of powdered sugar until smooth. Add a tablespoon or so of water as you knead if mixture doesn’t come together after a minute or so. The finished dough will be smooth and compliant.
3. Roll out between sheets of parchment paper on a large baking sheet into a 7 to 8 inch round that is less than 1/4 of an inch thick. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
4. Remove top sheet of paper and sprinkle round with powdered sugar. Replace top sheet and flip round over to repeat sprinkling on other side.
5. With a 1 inch cookie cutter, cut as many rounds as possible and transfer candies to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
6. Freeze candies until firm, at least 10 minutes.
7. Melt three-fourths of chocolate in a metal bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water.
8. Remove bowl from pan and add remaining chocolate. Stir until smooth. Cool until candy thermometer registers 80°F.
9. Return water in pan to boil and remove from heat. Set bowl of cooled chocolate over pan and reheat, stirring, until candy thermometer registers 88 to 91°F. Remove bowl from pan. (I just kept the hot saucepan and bowl on a cloth towel as I worked and the chocolate stayed warm enough to work with.)
10. Balance one of the pattie rounds on a form and submerge in melted chocolate, let the excess drip off. Return pattie to sheet. To make decorative lines on top, gently press bottom of fork briefly on top of the patty and then lift straight up.
11. Let patties stand until chocolate sets, about 1 hour.