Nut Brittle

Do you ever stop to think about how weird some words sound? My friend and I were having this conversation on the tram at Disneyland on Friday, and–

Oh, what’s that? You’re asking where I was when we were having this conversation?

Let me back up and try again…

I was at Disneyland!!!

The happiest place on earth, filled with happy kids, unhappy kids, super grumpy kids, frumpy kids, scowling kids, and howling kids. And then there was my friend and me with our double-scoop dipped waffle cone ice creams from Gibson Girl’s ice cream parlor, laughing at equally grumpy, frumpy, scowling, howling parents who had paid exorbitant amounts of money to get in and have their share of “fun…” Sigh. What great times.

At any rate–phew! Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I can focus. And can I just say, without any further distractions…

Did I mention I was at Disneyland, the happiest place on earth?

(So sue me. I’ve never been much of a girl for cue cards, anyway.

And isn’t that beautiful nut brittle? Apparently I’m not much of a girl for a prolonged attention span, either…)

Anyway–words. Right. So my friend and I were having this conversation at only-the-happiest-place-on-the-freakin’-globe when we started discussing the sounds of words, and how weird some of them can be. For example, think about the word moist. Got that in your head? Now look at it on the screen really, really hard while saying it out loud (or under your breath, if you’re in a public space that’s unconducive to muttering to yourself in a slightly mad fashion).

Moist.

Moist.

Moist.

After a while, I start feeling icky just typing it. “Moist” is one of those words that almost sounds and reads like it connotes. You know the moist feeling of someone’s sweaty arm pressed up against yours on a crowded bus on a Sahara desert-esque afternoon? If you say “moist” out loud enough, you can almost feel the beads of sticky perspiration oozing up against you, can’t you? Or if you didn’t before, you probably can now. Yeah. Sorry about that…

I have a strange habit of associating words with different feelings. There have been documented cases of people with synesthesia, a condition in which individuals can readily associate numbers and other things with colors–so a six might be a pale tan, while a fraction might be a rainbow fusion of colors. (I recently read The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, possibly one of my favorite childhood authors of all time, and he apparently had the same ability–makes sense! Anyone remember that amazing scene with Chroma the Great and the silent, colorful symphony? Pure genius.) I actually spend an inordinate amount of time making the strangest sorts of associations, as my previous blog-work over at Simply Scrumdiddlyumptious has made evident.

Icky words aside, one of the weird associations I’ve always made is with the word “brittle.” Nut brittles, in particular, since I’d never properly had any until relatively recently. So every time somebody said the word “brittle,” I’d think, for some random reason or anything nobody cares to explain,

or even…

(God, I have so much affection for this guy.)

You’re thinking, First it’s sweaty pits on a bus, and now old men in a nut brittle? What is with this girl, and why is she plaguing us with these ramblings?

I’ve been trying to trace the association, and here is my theory:

Step 1: Language does not make sense. A deconstructionist lens is applied to everyday life, without irony.

According to our good friend and by-no-means-the-bane-of-a-graduate-student’s-existence man, Ferdinand de Saussure, language is by no means intuitive or referential. In laymen’s terms, this means that a word like “cat” does not actually have anything to do with what we actually think of or see when we think of or see cats. The word “cat” doesn’t look, smell, sound, feel, or (dare I say it?) taste like a cat, not that I know what a cat tastes like. But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.

Therefore, the word “brittle” is not inherently related to the concept of nut brittle. It’s just nut brittle, without being called that. If I’ve lost you, don’t worry–I’m pretty sure Saussure meant for that to happen. All theorists do.

Step 2: My overworked mind mis-associates words and their referents. Theory is (indirectly) to blame.

Having worked my buns off this entire past year in graduate school in order to keep up with the ridiculous amounts of literary theory that have been piled on us, my mind is fried. Think state fair, funnel cake deep-fried. Even after a month of summer and all that stuff they’d like for you to believe is “vacation time,” my mind is still in a haze. It becomes, in other words, vulnerable to mistaken associations. For example, the word “brittle” in the phrase “nut brittle” becomes associated, not with the sugary confection, but with the brittleness of old people’s bones. I’m not even kidding. I wish I were.

Step 3: I publicly post my extremely weird, slightly pointless anecdote for the world to see/read. (See Step #2, sentence 2 for the reason.)

Still brain-fried, I make the probably misinformed decision to write an entire post about this and then hope that somebody will reply with some sort of reassuring insight, or maybe just a comment that will tell me how much they liked my anecdotal recipe. Wishful thinking is another one of my greatest strengths.

Step 4: Sit and wait. Eat grotesque amounts of nut brittle while I wait for comments to appear, and sulk around when the refresh button takes more than 3.2 seconds to resubmit my page request.

Only kidding. But I am definitely sulking right now about the fact that, while trying to (rather smartly) show my friend my smoothie through the webcam, I spilled the drink over my laptop keyboard, and now the numbers 1-4 and 7-0 don’t work. Not a high point of my intellectual prowess.

All the more reason to eat some more nut brittle, I say.

So here’s the recipe! (Photos to follow, when WordPress isn’t being a moody blah-face.)

Happy reading, and happy eatings!

Nut Brittle

Yield: 1 small cookie sheet full

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup nuts (almonds or peanuts, raw)
  • 1.5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

  1. Generously grease a cookie sheet. Put in an oven and turn on the heat; you’ll want to leave the pan in long enough that it gets pretty warm, and pull it out with about two minutes to go on your brittle boiling so the pan isn’t too hot to handle when you’re spreading the brittle.
  2. Measure out softened butter and baking soda into a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a medium or large-sized heavy pot, over low, bring the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water to a boil. Stir in nuts. (If you’re using roasted nuts, you can mix them in near the end of the boiling process.) Stir frequently, making sure to keep a close eye on the liquid to keep it from burning. Allow it to continue boiling until the mixture is pretty thick and has turned a nice golden shade, then remove from heat. (Note: A good key to knowing when it’s done is if you lift up your stirring spoon about a foot or two up above the pot and the mixture “threads”–that is, if a long thin thread dangles from the end of the spoon. Mine doesn’t always do this, so make sure you watch for the color change in your mixture to tell when it’s “done.” It should turn a light brown, and while this might sound odd, you should be able to smell when the nuts are pretty near done cooking. Remove the mixture from heat before the nuts begin to actually smell burnt.)
  4. Remove from heat; immediately stir in butter and baking soda, just for 5-10 seconds, until the mixture is pale and frothy. Pour at once onto cookie sheet and tilt it quickly so that the brittle spreads. Spread it out with your spoon if necessary to form a thinnish layer. Having a warm pan should help prevent the brittle from hardening before it is spread completely.
  5. Allow to cool. Remove from pan with a spatula, and break into pieces. Enjoy!
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3 Replies to “Nut Brittle”

  1. I love your though process and I can relate. 🙂 These are some beautiful nut brittle. What a wonderful treat.

    1. Thanks, and phew! Always good to hear I’m not the only one…

  2. “Language does not make sense.” i never thought about it but it doesn’t because nut brittle never was that brittle to me… but old peoples bones sadly are.
    At least you spilled something classy on your keyboard shame though I guess laptops are a bit to brittle.

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