Toffee’s swan song?

photo(31)As I stood stirring my bubbly caramel-colored mixture this afternoon, I think I had an epiphany.

I have made English toffee during the Christmas holidays for more years than I can remember.  Why?  That’s the question I asked as I did my mindless stirring.

Years ago I found a toffee recipe in a holiday magazine.  It looked good in the picture. The recipe was easy.  I decided to give it a go.  Delicious.  Yummy.  Much better than the packaged kind we’d had in the past.  The whole family begged for more.  The biggest fan of all was my then husband D.  Every year after that first one, he started asking around Thanksgiving when the toffee assembly line would start up again.

It dawned on me as I prepared the beloved sweet treat today that I was, on some level, still cooking it up for my ex.  That’s the thought that came to mind.  Could that possibly be the case?  I don’t like to admit it but I think it might be so.  Then I thought of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity:  Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Stay with me now as I try to explain.

If you’ve been reading my blog since last Christmas or before, you are aware that the holiday season is particularly hard for me.  D always made a huge deal of Christmas.  (Too big I realize now.)  And suddenly he was gone.  So what did I do?  I went in the kitchen and I made that damn toffee as if he were still here.  Granted, I’m making it now for family and friends.  And it’s a nice thing to do for them.  I get lots of compliments from all who partake.  What I’m really doing, though, is trying to make Christmas like it used to be.  My version of insanity.

I have finished my confectionery habit for this year.  I have enough to give each daughter’s family a good supply for the holidays.  My quandary now is:  Do I give up making up toffee?  Or shall I continue to supply the family’s sweet tooth — with a new attitude?  Or shall I take a break for a year or so and see what happens?  I don’t know the answer but I’m glad I’ve recognized that I’ve been sabotaging my serenity during the holiday season.  Recognizing the problem is the first step toward solving it.

Hard Candy Christmas by Dolly Parton from “The Best Little Whore House in Texas”


32 thoughts on “Toffee’s swan song?

  1. I think that you are probably cooking for the whole family, I tend to do that too – and not just at Christmas. There is something about the mother-in-the-kitchen that feels warm and inviting, that feels like home. When I cook and bake I think of my mother and grandmother and all my Christmases as a child – as well as the Christmases with the children. If it makes you feel good – keep cooking.


  2. Ok, Pat, by now you’ve realized that I march to a different drummer; I think you should stop making the toffee! My reasoning: As long as you continue to make it, you will associate it with D. You will never be able to make it without thinking of him and the times you had together. If I were you, I would search the ‘net for a brand new, never been tried before, anti-D recipe. You know, something that you would love, but that you never made before because D wouldn’t have liked it. (Example, he didn’t like coconut so you never made the coconut cream pie you always wanted to make).
    I will admit, though, homemade toffee sounds good….:)


    • Hi Rainey. I do know that you hear a different drummer and that’s why I like your blog. I understand what you’re saying about the toffee and I think it’s a great idea. I have realized this year, though, that the whole family (and some friends) request and wait for the toffee. So for now, I think I’ve decided that I can overcome the D factor and continue to make it for the ones I love.


  3. Been out sick for a while and just read this, Pat. Very good self-analysis! It seems we’re all in agreement with you that the toffee-making stays. It can be for all kinds of reasons, but all of them come back to the pleasure you still get from it. And I definitely agree that I would take pleasure in knowing he’ll never get any of it. Ha!

    It has always been your tradition, not his. It’s a part of you. He just enjoyed it because he was there. It’s still you, and you bless so many with it. Merry Christmas, Pat!

    Love & prayers,


      • Happy New Year to you too, dear Pat!
        We had a lovely Christmas. It wasn’t very hot at all. We saw all the family except for our son and his family who are in Melbourne. We’re going to see them sometime next year.
        This morning it’s very sunny. I think we’re going to have a very hot day today. I’m sorry the weather in USA has worsened so much. Hope you aren’t in a bad
        weather zone..
        Love, Uta.


        • Hi Uta. It’s hard for me to imagine Christmas in the summertime. Fortunately we have not had disastrous rain where I am. I’m in North Carolina and we have very mild winters here. We’ve had rain all day but the temperature is about 50 F.


  4. Hi Pat,
    Ive only recently started following youor post but I really enjoy what you say I remeber my mum getting ready for christmas when me and my brothers were kids cakes adn cookies, the smell of baking really does take me back as well. I have to say your toffee looks gorgeous Im drooling over my laptop. Have a wonderful christmas and a happy new year and look forward to reading your post’s in 2013.

    Love & light Andy x


  5. How did I miss this. I like that you’re old fashioned and bake for the holidaze. I can practically experience how good your kitchen must smell. Now I’d like some Toffee…wonder if Dean & Deluca make it…bakery up the block 🙂


  6. I have a range of serious and worthy opinions on this Pat, and I feel I really should let you know what they are. The trouble is, now you’ve mentioned you make great home made toffee, I just want some so badly that I’m just sitting here whimpering and watching all sense of my own dignity go down the pan. I want some. Is it good for you if your dieting. Does it have nuts in. Ok, I’m going now.


    • Great opinions and questions, Ducks. I could send you the recipe if that would help. Yes, it has nuts in it. Of course it’s good for your diet. All that sugar and butter will elevate your cholesterol to new heights. That is the goal, isn’t it?


  7. Definitely keep making the toffee. It’s become a tradition now and all recipients will think of Mom’s/Grammy’s/Pat’s toffee as a big part of their fond Christmas memories. Next time you make some you should indeed think about D…the biggest fan. He loved it better than anyone else and he ain’t gettin’ one bite of it. And you can bet SHE won’t make it for him. (Or if she does it won’t be as good.)


  8. Personally I just love toffee!! So make it for you and for those you love – and possibly at times which don’t hinge on festivities. You could create a whole new celebration at a different time of year and dish up the toffee then!!




  9. Oh Pat keep making your toffee. I’ve always found cooking or baking to be an expression of love. When I’m in my wee kitchen cooking for my family I know that it’s not really about the food for me. I think the process of making your toffee will evolve just as your life has. I bet if you keep at it one day you will find that the thoughts that filter through your head as you are stirring your pot of gloopy delight will have shifted too. Hang in there lovely lady, you’re doing grand AND your toffee looks amazing.


      • I’m pleased and I didn’t doubt for a minute that you wouldn’t. As an aside would you consider sharing your toffee recipe. My great grandmother used to make toffee in Glasgow and put it on the window ledge to cool and my grandmother said the kids would often come along and steal it. I remember my grandmother telling me that she had her own special little hammer she used to make the toffee. Sadly the recipe was never passed on so if you would be kind enough to share yours I would be really grateful. J x


  10. Keep making it, Pat – now you have analysed your motive you can stop making it for him and start making it for yourself and your kids, as a new family tradition in place of the old one. And it does look scrumptious!


  11. Pat, I’ve just recently found and started following your blog and I do love it…also love your attitude. Tell you what…make that toffee any time you want…if you don’t want to make it? Don’t. Whatever makes you happy to happier…do it. They say ‘ignoring reality is a temporary form of insanity’…you’re no longer ignoring reality so that means you’re totally sane! Good for you.


    • Thanks, Vasca. You’ve made me grin. I think I’ve waited for years to be officially declared “sane.” I thank you. My mother thanks you. My children are probably wondering about your sanity. 🙂 And I will indeed make toffee whenever I choose for whomever I choose.


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