There has been a lot of buzz lately about the true meaning of Christmas. I heard a co-worker say that Christmas means different things for different people, and that’s the way it should be.
Whether it’s baby Jesus or inflatable lawn Santas, why not let everyone have a go at their own special meaning?
I happen to know there is a sect of people for whom the true meaning of Christmas is English toffee. At least that’s what it would seem.
English toffee is a candy with a crunchy buttery middle between layers of semi-sweet chocolate studded with almonds. The combination of ingredients creates a taste sensation that must appeal to a core drive to live and live well.
English toffee is highly addicting and many consider it a gateway candy. It is not for those without steely resolve to lose weight. A whole bag should not be placed before a man watching a football game. Never give the gift before a meal, because it becomes the meal. And one should think twice about introducing it to new people.
My name is Lisa, and I’m an English toffee maker. For 25 years at Christmas time, I have been making the holy candy. It is a hard act that one must follow, a responsibility to uphold a tradition of satisfying the lusty taste bud and making Christmas complete.
I have followers far and wide who have zombie-like ambition to get to their toffee. The desire breaks rules of etiquette, and people are not shy to ask when they can expect their gift each year. They have been known to hunt down postmen for a shipped package. Instances of hoarding and lying about its arrival are common.
It hasn’t been an easy Christmas life, either. Making toffee is not for sissies. Disasters can ruin a perfectly expensive batch of candy that has taken hours to make. A great ticking sound can be heard from the toffee-awaiters. It can make for 2 a.m. trips to the grocery store and sleepless nights.
The process involves cooking sugar and the finest butter until it reaches exactly 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. You must not only stir constantly with a flat edge spoon, but you must stir progressively faster as the toffee cooks. It takes a good 45 minutes, and you dare not stop for a second, for it will burn instantly.
Sputtering toffee goo sears a good brand on the skin when it comes in contact, and I have the scars to prove it.
Once the toffee reaches maximum temperature and you have added almonds, you pour it onto a surface and quickly spread it. It begins to set up instantly. This is another art that you must master. The thickness is important and requires rapid coaxing and on occasion prayer. You add melted chocolate and toasted chopped almonds and flip the toffee over to do the other side. If the toffee breaks into a million pieces, you will be hand-spreading chocolate on all million.
By the time you are done, you’ll want to schedule a wrecking ball for your kitchen and a trip to Tahiti.
I have learned to accept my fate as the Christmas toffee maven. I don’t enjoy seeing a long face at Christmas time when I show up with fudge instead. Now that my toffee also has followers at the Commercial, I have had to step up production before Christmas. Our publisher Mary Ungs-Sogaard acted as toffee zombie spokesperson this year when she informed me that she couldn’t wait to get a hold of some of my toffee contribution to the office party. She had the classic toffee-crazed glint in her eye, and spittle formed a drool.
If this keeps up, I may have to quit my job as reporter and apply for toffee-maker at the North Pole. At least Santa could help deliver.