Friday, November 26, 2021

Poetry Friday: An Ode to Making Caramels

Salted Caramels
from America's Test Kitchen's 
"Made From Scratch"

November's challenge was to write an ode to some aspect of Autumn, and to try (emphasis on TRY) to avoid praising only the usual suspects.  I'm not sure if caramel qualifies (at least it's not pumpkin spice) but when I read up on odes, I learned that they not only can praise a person or thing, but also an event.  So, this is my ode to making caramels (and other lovely things.)   Recipe follows. 

Ode to making caramels

I only make caramels
with my daughter, a scientist versed
in the precise ways of heat and time;
an Autumn queen, blistering sugar
to brown gold; regulating—

without mercy— the length of summer’s heat;
quelling with a swirl of wooden spoon 
the angry sputtering; one eye 
on the thermometer, raising the heat again—
false summer, dog days, before

she commands a river of salted cream
to foam the pot; now all is downward 
warmth until she sluices desiccated sunlight
into a leaf-thin parchment sling tucked 
into the waiting pan; later, she will score 

the stiffened caramels into perfect cubes; 
equinox at last. I wrap each one
in tender scraps of waxed brown paper; 
I pinch and twirl and seal. I’m grateful 
to be her sous-chef, her apprentice, 

her lab assistant. She's unaware—
I think—of the miracle she wrought, 
it’s only the removal of water from sugar,
this caramelization; only waiting, 
only creating goodness 

slowly precisely perfectly. And even
as the baby kicks inside her, 
even as we eat, unwrapping 
what I just wrapped, no number
binds the miracles she has yet to do.

                ------Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Salted Caramels
from America's Test Kitchen

My poetry sisters have made some lovely odes to other aspects of Autumn.  Find them all here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Ruth at thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown


  1. What a gorgeous love letter to Rebecca! And this made my heart fill:
    no number
    binds the miracles she has yet to do.

    This is amazing. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Tricia, when you said you wanted to write about a recipe, it must've sparked something inside me, because I found myself suddenly thinking about caramels and missing Rebecca. So, thank you!

  2. This is so gorgeous. What an absolute gift of a poem for your daughter, for you, for this connection between mothers and daughters. I thank you. xxoo

  3. This would be a perfect poem for Pádraig Ó Tuama to feature on the Poetry Unbound podcast. I would love to hear it read, then follow along as he points out all the places where you stirred autumn images into the caramel pot. And yes, that ending. What a love letter this is!

  4. Such a tricky process resulting in a lovely cube, the result of so much care. That this is about your daughter brings it alive on so many levels.

  5. "No number binds the miracles she has yet to do."
    That's lovely - and I love the words you've come up with during this pre-season of grandmothering.

  6. More than sweetness and brown, a gift of love, Sara. I read it several times, enjoying your joy it seemed to have written it. Thanks!

  7. So precisely beautiful. This brought me tears.

  8. Oooooooooh, Sara--this is chewy with gorgeousness, both the science of timing and the binding of blistered sugar, and that third stanza, the music! How beautiful, from start to unwrapped finish!

  9. What an amazing concoction of science, love, baking, and mystery, Sara. Rebecca, an Autumn queen, blistering sugar
    to brown gold -- gorgeous. And as a caramel fan, I loved it just on the surface level, too. But like a true baker, you've worked magic here. Like Andi, I teared up reading this ode...


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