Ever feel like what the French call les incompetents? If like me, “oui, le constantly-ment”, then I salute you. My useless actions always seem amplified – I’m much more likely to dwell on slamming into a doorframe, saying something without thinking, or hassling everyone about but not winning a blogging award. Or sometimes I’ll be walking quietly down the street and my brain will say something along the lines of “hey, remember this very specific mistake/bad judgement call/awkward situation?” When all this happens I try and steer the brain towards thinking positively, shrinkening the tiny or huge mistakes and remembering the good things. What else can you do? (Apart from not make mistakes? Which: doubties.)
I try instead to remember small things, like friends who instinctively invite themselves round for wine just when you feel like friends and wine. Like getting a tweet reply from people in The Wire or on Broadway. And like this utterly manageable Christmassy snack to go with my Christmassy movie reference. It has less ingredients than I have eyelashes after a night wearing mascara (seriously, mascara is like a tiny version of one of those weird rolly things that remove lint from your clothes…for my eyelashes) and – the snack that keeps on giving – is also charmingly simple to make, strangely delicious to eat, and aggressively festive to behold.
Make it when you’ve got people coming round and you don’t know what to serve up – especially since the two main ingredients can be bought from most corner dairies; make it when you feel like things should be more recognisably yuletide-y than they are; make it if you’ve had a hard day which can be soothed by the feeling of a knife blade plunging through solid sugar; make it when you’re wavering between “Shut up, self! Your life is good! Check your privilege and stop complaining!” and “I just want to hug a large cat and allow its soft pelt to absorb my salty tears.”
So, yes, this conversation again – I didn’t win the blogger award I was nominated for. D’oh! I feel like the Raul Esparza of blogger awards. But you can’t go round hitching your wagon to every star that rolls by. Had I won, of course, I would’ve talked about it heaps, and big congratulations to the winner. But here we are. Asking for votes isn’t something I love, and while I didn’t quite have the energy to be involved, I also didn’t have the energy not to be involved, if that makes sense. On the upside of things, it’s cool that someone/s nominated me, thanks heaps everyone who did vote because of – or in spite of – my petitioning, I’m pretty sure I got some new readers out of this (do stay!) and it’s a good learning experience.
So what even is this recipe? It’s so simple, and yet a triumph of both texture and flavour. The sugary crunch against soft chocolate snap; the spicy chill of synthetic peppermint flavouring melting into the cocoa darkness. While I have a feeling I’ve seen this recipe before somewhere other than my brain, I also can’t place it specifically. That said, I haven’t tried googling it or anything. But importantly, it’s easy, it’s delicious, it’s beautiful. In fact the most difficult part is wrangling the wrapping off the candy canes – this strange plastic, which on the candy canes is like trying to scrape off a layer of clear nail polish, and then when finally removed it floats around and clings obstinately to your eyebrows.
Candy Cane Bark
A recipe by myself
- 250g dark chocolate. (I use Whittakers. It is both delicious, and the best.)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or plain oil (I like rice bran) or even Kremelta, if you dare.
- Five candy canes
- Edible Glitter (optional)
Place the unwrapped candy canes on a chopping board, and carefully, using a big knife, chop away at them till they’re reduced to peppermint splinters.
Melt the chocolate, a decent grind of salt, and the oil together gently either in the microwave or in a metal bowl that’s sitting on a small pot of simmering water (not actually touching the water.) Pour into a smallish tin – if it’s silicone you’re all good, but consider lining it with baking paper if it’s ceramic or metal or something. Once it has cooled a little, sprinkle the candy cane shards over evenly and top with glitter. Chill and slice evenly.
This is best when freezing cold, to encourage maximum crunch and minimum melting in your hand. Also good topped, if you will, with a tasteful and elegant dusting of edible glitter. You could double the chocolate, to make it thicker, or double the candy canes, to make it crunchier and prettier. Don’t leave out the salt – I know salted everything these days is getting a little blah, but its intensity not only balances out the sweetness, but also makes everything taste more of itself.
Every time I’m convinced peppermint flavouring is as fun as eating food right after after cleaning your teeth, a combination like this comes along to change my mind. While it looks like it’d make an ideal gift, it’s a little too melty to be sit around in a wrapped box for hours under the tree. Instead, whip it out when you’ve got guests and they’ll hopefully be so dazzled by the pretty shards of candy cane, that you’ll look far, far more competent than you might be feeling.
I know I’m always sleepy these days but lately life’s been like when you go to get Chinese takeaways and you optimistically stuff way too much food from the buffet table into your plastic container and it bulges out the lid and noodles dangle out the side, and then you insist on eating it all rather than just put it in the fridge and admit defeat about your stomach capacity. That is to say, I was busy and had amazing times, like karaoke, cases of wine appearing, skidding down a hallway in socks, dancing – possibly terrifyingly – wild and free with friends, attending book group that went on for five hours because we were talking about everything ever. Would rather have the overstuffed $7 buffet container than a single crabstick off the menu any day (wait, that metaphor makes no sense, let’s just finish things here.)
Finally, I don’t know how many times you’ve seen Home Alone but that’s what the Les Incompetents quote comes from – I was talking to someone on Twitter about how I’d wanted to use it on my blog for a while, and lo, the universe provides me with lots of incompetency to not so much quote it as turn it into a thematic motif for my life, or something.
Title via: People, there are just not that many songs referencing candy canes, which makes no sense to me. Luckily the White Stripes not only made a song, they basically devoted their working life to resembling peppermint-flavoured candy.
Ladi6 released a beautiful video for her beautiful song Jazmine DL. She’s so awesome I can’t even talk about her properly without a good night’s sleep so I’ll just link through to the video and leave it at that.
The song that always, always makes me feel better, but especially during an attack of the les incompetents: Die, Vampire, Die.
Next time: I was going to tack it on as an afterthought but I like it so much it’ll get its own post, and hopefully act as a nice buffer between all the Christmas overload. I’ll leave you with one word: Capsimato. (Also these parentheses and this explanatational colon: it’s roast tomato inside roast capsicum. Just in case capsimato wasn’t working for you.)