Butterscotch Memory Lane

So, I’m in my car trying to make my way to a Friday happy hour, and BLAM!  Traffic accident.  And, man, was it a doozy! Which means I had plenty of time to think. And plenty of time for my tummy to start rumbling.  Which got me to thinking about food. Which got me to thinking about butterscotch. (Hey, don’t judge!  I said I was on my way to happy hour and I like scotch on the rocks and butter goes with everything.)  Nonetheless what exactly IS butterscotch, where’d it come from and why did I have it on my mind amidst a serious accident?

image00Butterscotch itself is actually a simple confection.  It’s somewhere between the flavor of toffee and caramel and with similar ingredients. Butterscotch, which is said to have originated in Doncaster, England in the early 1800s, actually requires a simple mix of brown sugar, butter, milk or cream and salt.  Actual scotch isn’t required but a splash doesn’t hurt. The trick is in the cooking process.  It’s a delicate blend of bringing the ingredients to the right cooking temperatures and blah,blah blah blah blah.  This isn’t a culinary blog.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I associate butterscotch with my grandmother.   She’d keep these little hard butterscotch candies in her purse and would pass me one whenever I got antsy in church, usually because Reverend Scipio’s sermon was too long. I mean, there was nothing sweeter than unwrapping that crinkly yellow cellophane to reveal the little bite of deliciousness inside. (Critics would say this flavor is actually very different than actual butterscotch, but hey, I’m going for nostalgia here!) My grandmother also kept them in a butterscotch-colored candy jar in the kitchen so us kids could sneak one whenever the mood hit us.  Now, butterscotch was an ‘old folks-flavor’ candy, most kids ate the little round red and white peppermints instead, but I always found myself migrating towards the creamy smoothness of butterscotch.

image00My butterscotch love affair continued into early adulthood. My family would throw these epic holiday parties and a new friend and future love brought these wonderful confections called haystacks to one of the events. I was instantly intrigued!  I mean, butterscotch is daring–it makes a bold statement because not everyone goes for its unique flavor.  Yet who could resist these cute little treats resembling loose piles of hay in a wheat field? Again, the ingredients and recipe, were simple; crunchy chow mein noodles, butterscotch chips and peanuts all melted together and tablespoon-ed onto wax paper and allowed to cool.  Yummers!

Finally, one year when life and love were particularly tough, a made-to-order cookie company opened downtown.  On the days and nights when my head and my heart were not in alignment, I’d find myself at the cookie counter ordering my specialty…sugar cookie dough with butterscotch and pecans.

It was these cookies I was thinking of as I inched forward towards the accident that had first started my butterscotch reverie. And as I (finally!) approached the flashing lights of the ambulances and fire trucks, it dawned on me that it wasn’t my delayed happy hour that’d made me think of scotch and food, but rather the lesson of butterscotch itself…

…when life is at its hardest and most chaotic, it’s the taste of something simple and sweet that soothes it all and lets you know that everything will be okay.  

So, as I crawled past that accident, I visualized all the accident victims sitting at a buffet table piled high with butterscotch candies, haystacks and cookies…and I felt assured they’d all be just fine. I even planned to have a Butterscotch Martini in their honor.

Now, what’s your butterscotch?