Morning sun poured light over wooden porch beams, like syrup over a warm stack of pancakes. Warmth bounced into the kitchen where I met my first love…fancy grade A maple syrup. Golden comfort cakes flipped above a hot griddle, neighbors raw holstein milk settled in a jar, matching color with an adjacent stick of butter. Liquid gold removed from the refrigerator glistened in early light.
My favorite maple stood roadside, dignified watching over us for years at the bus stop. Her girth gave assumption she withstood time, holes drilled yearly for spout relocation and healing. During mud season, inches of snow blanketed the ground. I was sent to collect sap, perhaps reason I was harvested. Boots stretched above knobby kneecaps, bundled to my Mom’s approval I ventured into the elements, scampering for warmth, white pails in hand. Trampling through knee deep snow a challenge, as I day dreamed of sap lines and electric heat. I trudged maple to maple removing lids, pouring sap, and returning buckets to their spigots for next gathering. Some trunks produced more than others, like furry neighbors at milking time. Mindful not to slosh precious drops by hitting pails against objects, I carried them with care. Tree debris swam upon the surface, soon to be cooked off. Boiling over the basement wood stove, I counted between sap drips off a homemade wooden spoon, which would indicate completion. It took hours and tons of sap to create a half gallon, filling our cabin with natures sweet scent. An all natural product nothing added but sap, degrees and care. Aunt Jemima, you are motor oil. I do not like your thick darkness, such mock up of the real thing. Some prefer you, therefore I shall leave you be.
It’s time to come clean with a sticky situation, here is my truth: I drink syrup. I’m not talking the occasional lick my plate clean, when no one is looking. When the crave emerges, I sprint, to capture the container, tilt it high and indulge. Shot glasses full of golden delight makes me feel rich, smoothly coating my digestive tunnel delivering natures love. This is my nemesis, my addiction, the affair I cannot quit. I halted syrup intake cold turkey for 8 months after recommended I eliminate sugar as a stressor, but I relapsed…big time. Perhaps it better to have a happy heart, in love despite colon conundrum? How can 53 natural grams of sugar trigger belly pain? Wait, that’s per serving?! Let’s just ignore quantity, shall we?
Each Christmas I receive a gallon of liquid gold shimmering under the spruce, with a bow on top. A twist off, the only barrier between taste buds and euphoria. Hugging the bottle in rapture, I give thanks running to lock it in my vehicle before it gets lost in holiday shuffle, and driven to a city. I have ran out of syrup maybe twice in my life, threatening to send this country girl to rehab.
Whenever I see a tiny Dixie cup, it reminds my heart of my first love. We took field trips as kids to the local sugar shack; my neighbors. We learned the process on a larger scale, in a maple candy eggshell; collect sap, boil it forever, and out comes natures magic! Anticipation built larger than confirming a dream vacation, as callused farmer hands passed me a Dixie sample. My little paws surrounded the cup with all my might, so silly boys could not steal. I drank natures heaven, then skipped to the bus for a high energy ride back to school.
I wish there were syrup bars similar to brewery tours. You could explore the forest bundled with friends, sampling various grades upon heated fuzzy bar stools, as local musicians played. Donations could be given to land owners, and sap gatherers of all ages. Syrup, if you are my first and last love on this journey, I sweetly accept. 🙂