Whatever Abner Doubleday (A Cracker Jack recipe)

Baseball diamonds are not romantic.  The attire is too casual.  Which is strange because it is known as The Gentleman’s Sport.  Let me tell you.  I have attended games.  I have sat in the bleachers.  There is nary a gentleman nor a pocket square among them.

I prefer sports like boxing that are openly barbarous yet full of glamour–none of this pretending to be a gentleman shit.  Knocking out another guy’s teeth is sexy.  So sexy, women have always donned stilettos and stoles for the event.  In my grandmother’s day, you knew you were in for a treat if your honey said “Hey baby, here’s $50 for the beauty parlor ‘cause tonight Marciano’s gonna beat the crap outta La Starza!”

Nothing about America’s Pastime makes me amorous.  Dirty-water hot dogs cannot compare to a filet from Sardi’s.  Stadium lighting is so unflattering that even a glowing young woman can look like a hag.  If I’m going to a game, I have to make sure my concealer provides me with more coverage than Syria on CNN.  I recommend Clé de Peau.  Did I mention the sound of metal bats makes my teeth ache?  All baseball has to offer are pre-nuptial agreements to pretty girls, V.D., boredom, sunburn, the inhalation of dust, and frowzy fans who’ll spill beer on your shoes—none of which makes me want to hold anyone’s hand.  So yeah, I was surprised when the seed to one of my romances was planted on a field. 

Many moons ago, I shot an independent film down South, a film I am sure went straight to BETA.  My co-star, the lead of our Mickey Mouse production, became a friend of mine.  Our off-camera occupation was playing Scrabble and draining bottles of Bulleit over cloudy motel ice.  One particularly sweaty sunset, we perched on the terrace smacking mosquitoes from our skin and plotting how to outdo the other by using only two-letter words.  He took a drag from his American Spirit, the kind that comes in the light blue box.  I remember the color because it is my favorite shade of blue.  Tiffany box blue.  Smoke curled from his lips and nose.  He paused the way you do before laying the smack down with a fifty-point bingo.  The Scrabble equivalent of death by guillotine.  But instead of placing all his tiles on the board, he grabbed a piece of his early 80’s Johnny Depp inspired hair and rolled it in his tobacco stained fingers like a naughty schoolgirl (P.S.  This coiffure was his pride and joy, an asset that almost awarded him the role of young Elvis in the made for TV movie).  After a minute, he asked.

“You notice John can’t stop looking at you?”

“Excuse me, who?”

“The First A.D.  It’s true.  He stares at you long after the director calls cut.”

Since this was a baseball movie, our backdrop was a dusty field most days.  The morning wardrobe dressed me in embarrassingly tiny white shorts was no exception.  I complained that I felt naked and whorish.  Costume design argued on behalf of young and coltish.  So I convinced myself I wasn’t slutty, just a baby Mustang who didn’t know any better, and decided to make peace with the hearts embroidered on my back pockets.  When it came time to shoot, camera followed me down a dirt path and watched me study my co-star pitch baseballs to his curmudgeonly grandfather, Pop.  I wrapped my fingers through the diamonds of the chain link fence high above my head and swung my hips from the hold.  As the director called cut, I looked over my shoulder to see who was staring.  Pony.  Short for Ponyboy Curtis because that’s who he was.

Except he wasn’t Pony yet.  Not to me.  Blatantly black Irish, he had the same cherry cola waves I smoothed into submission with Kérastase everyday.  I could tell he was a runner the way his sinews looked like rubber bands twisted over sticks.  He was tiny but strong and I liked the colorful tattoos on his arms.  I felt like a doe-eyed Sandy in Grease.  Pre-hooker-makeover.  I had never piqued an interest in a man who used his skin as a canvas before.  He even had a nose ring.  I threatened to get a nose ring.  Once.  In the tenth grade.  But it never happened.  This was a man who followed through.  And he was from Brooklyn, which was the opposite of L.A.  A fact that made him exotica to me.

Of course it didn’t work out.  I was 24 and he was a vegan with tattoos and a nose ring but more on that later and kind of who cares?  The point is when I got home from work, Cora, the wife of the proprietor where we were staying, had like an angel, put some homemade Cracker Jacks in my room–being as it was a baseball movie and all.  Here is her recipe.

Ingredients: 

1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels

1/2 stick of butter which is about 56.7 grams

1 cup Spanish peanuts

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons molasses

a drop of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

First, make your popcorn stovetop in a little olive oil and a bit of butter.  Next, preheat your oven to 300F/148.8C.  Put the popcorn with the peanuts in a paper grocery bag and set aside.  Then add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT the vanilla to a sauce pot.  Stir the mixture over medium heat until it begins to boil.  After 15- 20 minutes, the color should be deep caramel.  If it’s not, let the mixture keep on bubbling and you keep stirring.  I never use a candy thermometer.  I just eyeball it, but if you’d like to use one then feel free.    What you want to reach is the hardball stage which is roughly 260-275F.  When you think the caramel sauce is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Don’t be shocked if it sputters.  Now, carefully pour the mixture over the popcorn and peanuts in the paper bag.  Stir with a wooden spoon to distribute the caramel goodness.  Lastly, transfer the popcorn and peanuts to a cookie sheet and bake for no more than 15 minutes.  Mix well every 5 minutes to make sure the popcorn and peanuts are evenly coated.  I would say cool and store, but if you’re like this Chubby Princess there won’t be a single kernel left.

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2 thoughts on “Whatever Abner Doubleday (A Cracker Jack recipe)

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