Thursday, October 13, 2011

oh, darlin', I was blind to let you go

When I was in high school, the summer between my junior and senior years of high school I went with my AP Spanish class to Mexico for three weeks. We saw Mexico City, Teotihuacan and Acapulco, and spent two weeks with host families in Toluca, while we were attending a school in the city and studying for the AP Spanish test. The first morning with my host family they served lukewarm shelf-stable milk and cantaloupe, my most hated fruit at the time. But I looked at it and knew that to refuse it would be horribly offensive, so I took a deep breath and muscled it down. Now I love cantaloupe. They also served me sopa de calabaza, and some soup made with a pig's backbone. I loved those. I've successfully replicated the sopa de calabaza, which was basically zucchini bisque, but the pig's backbone eludes me. I ate white shelf-stable cheese, chicharrones, cerebros and orejas and a bunch of other pastries I can't remember the names of. I went to a quinceanera where my friends Aimee and Jaime got drunk on the classic combination of rum and Coke. Mexico is where I learned that enchiladas in Utah, at least twenty years ago, are completely unrelated to enchiladas in Mexico. It's why I openly laughed at my roommate in college who said her mom makes enchiladas "the real way, like Mexicans--with cream of chicken soup and no sauce."

One day when I was driving home from school with my host sister Laura and her mom, we stopped at a little store where they had slabs of fudgy-looking stuff in all different colors. Laura's mom bought some for us, and that was my first taste of penuche candy. I obsessed about it and brought about five bricks of it home from Mexico with me. I have sought it in countless Latino markets all these years since, and have finally found real chicharrones, but not penuche. Well, like an idiot, I signed up to bring penuche to a Relief Society activity we're having tonight. We're learning about Latin America, so I thought, "hey, appropriate!" Why did I sign up to bring a candy I can't make or buy? Not sure. But I scoured the internet and made a failed batch that is caramel, broke my hand mixer, then tried a different recipe, and it is perfect. It's just like I remember. I almost wept at the exactness of the texture and flavor, which is nerdy of me, but I couldn't help it. It had been so long, and it brought back such wonderful memories of Mexico.

I used this recipe, and followed it almost exactly. I did have to beat it a little longer than four minutes.

Now that I can get chicharrones, tamales and chiles rellenos that taste like I remember, and make my own penuche with comparative ease, is there anything missing from my life? Yes, but not much.


tipsybaker said...

I'm making this. Did you add the nuts?

Layne said...

Heavens, no! I should have said so, oops. No nuts. No nuts in fudge.