So all day long, the couch has been my home. Two enormous yellow pillows, plus a couple more purloined from the bed, have held my left leg in place. I feel as though I am presenting it, like a glass slipper, on a dainty pedestal. My foot is mostly purple, and a little green. Swollen. But a little better. Thank goodness for codeine, which helped me sleep eleven hours last night. This morning, everything felt lighter.
Last night, after a marathon of school, doctor’s, drug store (it took them forty minutes to fill my prescriptions, mostly because they had to call each manufacturer to ensure the pills contained no gluten), and two bumpy bus rides home, I was more exhausted than I ever remember being. The #2 bus stops across the street from my house, thank goodness. It also stops outside of Ken’s Market.
Ah, Ken’s Market. How I love it so. One of two in a small Seattle chain, my Ken’s has been here at the top of Queen Anne for decades. I know people my age who worked there as teenagers, and still come back to shop for groceries and say hello to old friends. It’s a real neighborhood store, filled with friendly checkers. (Each one of them smiles at me, since they see me nearly every day, my hands full of a wild variety of spontaneous food choices for that night’s dinner party. I should throw a dinner party for them, since they make my food life easy.) But this is more than just a corner store. Nearly all the fruits and vegetables are organic. They buy breads from local bakers. The deli roasts chickens fresh every afternoon. And the wine section astounds me with its selection. On top of the kitchen basics, Ken’s carries plenty of gourmet delicacies. Matiz Extremeno fig bread from Spain. No flour in this bread, just compressed figs and honey. (They also carry the artisan apricot bread, and the date bread.) St. Dalfour prunes from France, the plumpest, juiciest prunes I’ve ever tasted, in clear glass jar, underneath the spice shelf. And last week, I discovered de la Estancia polenta, grown in Argentina. This gorgous golden cornmeal cooks up into true polenta in one minute. It’s not instant polenta. It’s merely that the families that own the company grow a different breed of corn, one that cooks up fast. And it’s organic. I’d never seen it before, and there it was, sitting on the shelves at Ken’s.
On Friday night, I hobbled through the store in pain. Every fiber of me wanted to lie down, on the couch, and sleep away the next three days. I winced with every step on my left foot. But I knew that I needed food, easy food to help me through the worst of it. I bought some Amy’s frozen dinners. I know, I know. TV dinners? But I couldn’t stand on my feet for longer than three minutes, so cooking was going to be beyond my reach for three days. And these are lovely: organic, vegetarian, and gluten-free. In a pinch, I’m happy to eat them. Some fresh herb turkey slices. A dozen organic eggs. And some gorgeous smoked salmon. That’s my idea of a splurge now: smoked salmon.
the piece de resistance? Fran’s Gray Salt Caramels.
I’ve referenced these, obliquely, before. But now, I want to address them, head on.
These are, by the far, the best caramels I have ever eaten.
I mean, look at them. Don’t you just want to a take a bite, right now?
The caramel is buttery and dense, with a true chewiness. Take a quick bite and watch the caramel stretch in a lovely long arc from your mouth. Bite down slowly, and you can feel your teeth becoming one with the caramel. No fake aftertaste. No hint of too much sugar. Just pure butter and golden goodness. Oh goodness. And the chocolate? Thick, rich, and dark. It doesn’t shatter with your bite. It stays intact, wrapped around the caramel. And the salt, a gray salt from Brittany, cuts the sweetness of the chocolate, and brings it out more, at the same time. Sweet salty chocolate-butter goodness.
How can you resist?
I didn’t. And I’m glad.
Fran’s is a Seattle company, founded in 1982. And according to her website:
Fran opened her business with the goal of creating and selling extraordinarily high quality chocolates, caramels and desserts, to customers who valued the distinction between mass marketed chocolates and truly exquisite chocolate confections. Her objective then, was to provide the ultimate taste experience by cooking with only the finest ingredients in small batches, using no preservatives or artificial additives.
Over and over, I’m choosing the companies that insist on freshness, natural ingredients, and quality of care. Food tastes better that way. And even better, the Fran’s plant is about twelve blocks from my school. Some day, I’ll take a tour and breathe in the smell of pure dark chocolate. It’s a dream. It might happen.
In the meantime, I consoled myself with a couple of caramels. Normally, I wouldn’t indulge so much in one day. But the rain slanted down upon the windows, my trip to New York was only a distant figment of my imagination, and my ankle throbbed with pain. In cases like this, life calls for caramels.
Update: In a panic, I called Fran’s chocolates this morning. Silly me, I hadn’t even confirmed that these are gluten-free. WHEW! They are. At least, the dark chocolate caramels are gluten-free. The milk chocolate caramels have malt in them, which means they contain gluten. Also, any of the truffles with single-malt whiskey? Clearly, they have gluten too. The whiskey truffle is a bit of a loss. But the milk chocolate? Bah! Who wants to eat milk chocolate anyway?
Remember, all of you reading who cannot eat gluten, to double check before you eat.