Someone balked a few days back at my admission that I don’t much care for Rice Krispie Squares. What kind of solemn upbringing did I have, that I find these neat squares of sticky white airy goodness all a bit lacklustre?
My mom made them from time to time in her burgundy plastic bowl, microwaving the butter and marshmallow into a strange-scented congealed heap. She’d add a capful of vanilla and dump in the puffed rice. Stir with her wooden spoon, then smear the mess into a Pyrex dish. Cool. Cut into squares. Stack neatly.
People and recipes are a lot alike. We have our favourites, and what makes one perfect for me might turn you off completely. Some are good, some better, some ho-hum. Now and again, one is so amazing that we cheer in delight and fall off our chairs and triumphantly proclaim that in the history of friends and recipes, none has been better and none will be better, until the very end of time.
Despite good intentions, failures in execution often have more to do with the cook than the ingredients. They’re so subjective, these recipes and friendships. Everything left to temperature and proper salting and distance the ingredients travel. Are today’s tomatoes sweet? Did the pan heat evenly? Have I done enough and been enough for someone whom I love?
Tastes and people change, and what may be the most beautiful dish today becomes another recipe tucked to the back of the mind. As someone who photographs many meals I have a catalogue of past favourites: some long-lived in my repertoire, some fleeting. The entire fall term of my senior year I had a pot of split-pea soup on the stove. I haven’t made it since.
Sometimes, years later, we pick up the phone and call to say hello – but mostly we move on and have new go-tos and standbys and reliable concoctions.
In matters of belly and heart, I figure my steady palate has served me well. When I find things I like, I keep them around. They’re good in a way that I can’t possibly ever let go. People and dishes that offer strange comfort after a dreadful day and reassurance that this friendship, this recipe, this method – it’s failsafe.
So many ways to make Rice Krispie Squares and keep someone’s heart. Lucky enough, we might find a favourite for keeps.