Last Thursday night, I managed to do something I’ve wanted to experience since I was around 6 years old: I had maple taffy!
When I was a tiny Kimli, I was entranced by the Little House books and read the series over and over again. In Little House in the Big Woods, the family attended a sugaring party, where sap was collected from maple trees and turned into sugar to be used throughout the year. As part of the festivities, Laura and the rest of the children ate candy that they had made outside: maple syrup was poured over snow and somehow turned into delicious sticky fun times. As a small child who loved candy and fun times, this seemed like an incredible idea and one that I needed to try for myself, immediately. For science.
Unfortunately, I was a small child growing up in Victoria BC, which has one of the mildest climates in Canada. Any year in which we got snow was a HUGE DEAL, and a “cold day” was one that hovered around -3C. I also didn’t understand the difference between maple syrup and the syrup was had in the cupboard that came in the lady-shaped plastic bottle, so I was very confused and disappointed when I valiantly poured syrup out onto the meagre pile of dirty ice I scraped together and it didn’t turn into sticky toffee candy. I ate it anyway – I was not one to waste anything that tasted like sugar – but I never understood why it didn’t work for me when it did for the girls in the book. Did the book lie? I was sad.
Every winter I think back to my failed candy experiments and wonder what could have been. To cope, I decided that maple taffy was clearly something only available to people living in Wisconsin in the mid-1800s. I honestly didn’t realize that sugaring was an actual thing that still happened in Modern Times, and that making candy out of maple syrup was a common winter activity for virtually every school kid in Canada east of Alberta. I missed out, big time.
On Thursday evening, a group of us went to the Vancouver Christmas Market. It’s a relatively yearly tradition for Vancouver, but this was my first ever visit because I am slow at going out and Doing Things. While we were there, people enjoyed mulled wine and waffles and pitchy singing, and I took a million pictures of lights because that is my favourite thing ever. Also, I went to the Sugar Shack and finally got to experience fresh maple taffy made on snow, and it. was. awesome.
If this stupid snow sticks around, I’m gonna try making some at home. I understand now that Aunt Jemima will not suffice, and that it has to be balls-ass cold in order for it to work .. but I think I can make that happen. I’ll just hang out in our hallways for a while.
Today my dad would have been 99 years old. Growing up in Montreal a million years ago, I can pretty much guarantee that he would have experienced maple taffy as a child. If only my tiny self was smart enough to have asked him about it, I probably could have avoided years of disappointment (or at least redirected it into other areas of my life). Happy birthday, dad .. I still miss you.