Cheshire Cat: Well that depends on where you want to get to.
After transatlantic travel, and considerable delay,
When I got married, my mother made me a cookbook of family recipes. Under the Miscellaneous section, there are kid-pleasing recipes for pancakes, hot fudge sauce, coffee can ice cream, Chex party mix and pull later taffy. There is also a recipe for microwave caramel corn: a bit of late 1970s history, from the days when microwaves were a great novelty. I only remember to make it every few years, but when I do, I'm always delighted because it is DELICIOUS and easy and fun to make with children.
As summer winds down, and everyone gears up for the rush rush rush of the school year routine, it is a worthy afternoon project . . . and will, at least, lend some novelty to another afternoon spent watching DVDs. If you do let children have a go, make sure that you reserve a bag of this good stuff for yourself. It makes a lot, but a small gathering of children can snarf it down before the hapless adult has managed to clean up the kitchen.
Special Equipment: You will need a large paper bag and a microwave for this recipe.
Two batches of popcorn
8 ounces packed light brown sugar
4 ounces butter
2 ounces honey or white Karo syrup or Lyle’s Golden Syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
First, a few words about popcorn: don’t even think of using microwave popcorn. It is nasty and full of chemicals. You need to make popcorn the old-fashioned way, which is really very easy. You will need a large pot with a lid and handles on the side (so you can hold it to shake it). I use my spaghetti/soup pot, but when I was a child we had a special seasoned pot just for popcorn. On medium to medium-high heat, heat 2-3 tablespoons of a light vegetable oil (like sunflower, canola, etc). Then add your popcorn – I think that 2/3s of a cup is about right. Make sure to shake your pan back and forth, so you don’t burn the popcorn, and take it off the heat when it has almost stopped popping. Don’t forget to have a large bowl at the ready!
After you have made two batches of popcorn, using this method and quantity, pour all of your popcorn in a paper bag.
Next, you will make the caramel.
Place the brown sugar, butter and syrup in a large glass measuring cup or bowl. (Check picture for size. A 16 oz measuring cup is not big enough.) Microwave this mixture for approximately 1 ½ minutes – or until butter has completely melted. Then, stir until smooth, with all of the ingredients fully incorporated.
Here is the fun science experiment part: Add the vanilla, baking soda and salt and microwave on high for 2 more minutes. The baking soda will activate and the mixture will foam up.
I always like to know about the food aspect of things, so I was fascinated by Dali's special table at the Hotel Duran. Since we may never be in Figueres again, we opted for the Dali Smörgåsbord: Theater-Museum, jewelery display, and tour of Dali's Figueres -- which included his childhood home, his teddy bear, and his special "cellar" at this Figueres landmark. Anyone can reserve Dali's table, and observe the various pictures and other memorabilia on display. If you run out of vinegar (not to mention white wine), just help yourself from one of the casks!
As I was snapping this picture, the waiter suddenly emerged, like an apparition, from the darkness. The camera ending up catching what I hadn't seen -- a very Dali-esque effect, I thought. So much of his art deals with optical illusions, and he liked experimenting with lenses.
My children are not the most willing of cultural tourists. (I think that we blew their fuses in Florence two summers ago.) Any kind of church or cathedral immediately provokes a powerful response -- but not of the sacred kind. It did sort of amuse me when my world-heritage-site-weary daughter said, "But why do we have to visit this church? It's not even finished."
I have quite the opposite response. Everything about this grand cathedrals fills me with awe. There is something about a project that won't be finished in a human lifetime -- or even several decent life-spans -- which I find unutterably inspiring, and yes, surreal. These ambitious projects transcend all of our petty human traits: greed, impatience, short attention-spans, the notion of private ownership. With a bit of luck (and lots of money), La Sagrada Familia might be finished . . . more than 100 years after Gaudi died.
Gaudi's work can be seen all over Barcelona, and although it is always described as "modern," it doesn't really suit my mental image (metallic, glassy and sleek) of that word. Supposedly, he drew his inspiration from nature's forms -- but they are terribly strange in his renderings. More often than not, they remind me of the witch's candy house in the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. Alluring, ornate and a bit nightmarish.
You can look and look . . . but it's as if your eye can't entirely absorb what it is seeing.
From far away, I zoomed in on this tiny piece of the Nativity in the Temple of La Sagrada Familia. Apparently, every little detail has meaning. I think that it looks a bit like an overfrosted cake from a distance, but all of that texture is fascinating if you can home in on it.