Thursday, 9 July 2015

Honey Peanut Brittle for The Wedding Bees


It was the wrong week to be reading a poorly-written, ill-realised romance with an privileged white protagonist from Charleston. "Sugar" Wallace's nostalgia for swanning around an old plantation wearing a crinoline, treating her Magical Negro as an unpaid servant for his own good and bravely suffering through the most self-indulgent possible Secret Shame with an inflated sense of entitlement would have been pretty shit at the best of times. Reading it with the back-drop of a white supremacist trying to instigate a race war by murdering African Americans in Charleston meant that it was not the best of times.

I really did not enjoy the current Cook the Books club pick. Does it show? I found the protagonist irritating, the endless supply of stock characters lazy and the big reveal of Sugar's secret to be an anticlimax. There was the tiny kernel of an original idea hidden in layers of cliché.

Normally I would just let this month's pick slide, but I think the shootings at Emanuel AME church have opened up so many conversations about race, heritage and different experiences of the deep South that I felt obliged to post. And I felt compelled to look for a recipe from African American food traditions.

Honey peanut brittle seemed the obvious choice. In the introduction to this recipe, from Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams' book Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired by 100 Years of Cooking in a Black Family, they talk about the role of slaves in establishing apiculture in the US and introducing honey to plantation menus. And peanuts were a crop brought from Africa to feed the slaves, (some of the names for peanuts, "goober" and "pindar" are from African languages).
I did have some reservations about the recipe - adding roasted nuts right at the beginning seemed to be quite risky for burning, and using that proportion of honey also seemed unusual. Unfortunately my reservations were realised - the caramel started to burn long before reaching the hard crack stage, leaving me with a large tray of dark, chewy nut caramel. It still tasted OK though: fairly grown-up, with a strong honey character and the slightly bitter, more complex flavour of caramel that has gone a shade too dark. Paul's colleagues hoovered half of it (he put it in the fridge to firm a bit more and then they stood around his desk cracking chunks off) and the other half I will do something else with. A pie? An ice cream? Something that doesn't get cooked any more.

12 comments:

Barbara said...

Might be great mixed in to some vanilla ice cream.

The Cat's Mother said...

Good post. Never mind the recipe.

grace said...

i agree that your best bet is mixing it into some ice cream, or just crumbling it on top!
excellent post, for many reasons!

leaf (the indolent cook) said...

I think it would be nice with ice cream - or try yogurt! :D

Choclette Blogger said...

Hmmm, not a success all round then. We have our addiction to sugar to thank for the slave trade it seems, so your choice is appropriate.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Barbara - I think ice cream is going to be the way to go!

Mother - thank you!

Grace - possibly both!

Leaf - ooh, it would be lovely in yoghurt!

Choclette - yes, that too!

Debra Eliotseats said...

Alicia---What a well written reaction to the book. You have shamed me b/c I did not make the race connection at all (or the Charleston connection). Thank you for pointing that out......

Simona Carini said...

The massacre in Charleston certainly cast a particular light on Charleston, its people and its history. Thank you for your passionate post. I actually didn't know that slaves played an important role in establishing apiculture in the US. Thank you for contributing to this edition of Cook the Books.

Claudia said...

Well, if at first you don't succeed, pulverize the heck out of it and make fabulous honey peanut brittle ice cream.

Wendy Klik said...

I read this book and I enjoyed it for what it was. I am ashamed to say that I did not catch the nuances that would cause hurt and anger in others. Thanks for pointing these things out and opening our eyes to how written words affect each and every one of us.

Delaware Girl Eats said...

brittle - yum!

Deb in Hawaii said...

I have not had peanut brittle in ages. Bummer that it didn't work out but I like the idea of an ice cream topping. ;-)

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