Working in the food industry — first as a cook, now as a writer — it’s somewhat expected of me to have cooked for . . . someone. A date, a partner, anyone. So it’s a little strange to admit this, but I haven’t, ever. I’ve had relationships, sure, but each time, before I got the chance to bake a cake, or brownies, or even a single cookie for the person I was dating, the relationship ended.
Until I met you.
When we met, I was that geeky, bespectacled transfer kid; you were cool, chic, and effortless. But you quickly befriended me, found me at every recess, and cheered me on in my badminton matches. On our first date at the school play — "Grease," I think it was — I asked to hold your hand, and you beamed, squeezed my sweaty palms, and didn’t let go for the full 90 minutes. And when I asked you out a few days later, you nodded with that glint in your eye.
It was November then, so your birthday, Valentine’s Day, and our anniversary were still months away. But I had already planned the perfect dessert to make, one that would fully convey the extent of my feelings for you: black sesame brittle.
They might not quite scream “love” and “romance” in the same way that heart-shaped chocolate truffles and pink roll cakes might, but they were our favorite candy at the tuck shop. So I figured a homemade version would be that much sweeter. Because It was our thing.
Even now, years later, I can picture myself making them for you. I'd toast the black sesame seeds in the oven till fragrant, simmer up a sweet, sticky treacle caramel (and most likely get the caster sugar a tad burnt in the process). I'd then take the seeds and fold them through that salty, slightly charred caramel, lick the sugar stuck on my fingers, and let the brittle set firm before breaking them up into gloriously nutty, shattered shards.
You would’ve loved them. The flavor of the black sesame seeds comes through big and bold in this brittle, their slight bitterness tempered by the sweetness of the caramel. Best of all, this homemade candy is just a little nutty and a little funky — but always sweet. They reminded me of you, really.
I had imagined giving them to you with a joke thrown in, “I’m nuts about you.” (Even though we both know sesame seeds aren't even nuts.) But before I could, we broke up, and so I gave up on making them for a while.
Maybe that episode scarred me, made me apprehensive of ever attaching too much emotion into my food. I'm a chef, after all. As irrational as it seems, every time a part of me wants to cook for someone I love, another part of me worries about rejection again. Maybe it all stemmed from these brittles — the first food I've ever associated with love lost.
Today, as I listen to Cee Lo Green and read the lilting lines of Rupi Kaur telling me that
i am a museum full of art
but you had your eyes shut
I've decided to make these black sesame brittles, just for myself.
Black Sesame Brittle
Makes: 1 sheet pan's worth
2 cups black sesame seeds
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup treacle, or honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water