April 29, 2009

Black Cherry and Thyme Jelly from the Red Dimension

I heard a knock at the door. No, not a knock--more like the rasp of a brush against a snare drum. It was the sound of 10 cats licking the 10 toes of an infant. Of 10 baby bats sucking obsessively at a peach. Yes, this sound was more tongue than fist. A hiss. A feather tickling your wrist. Eyelashes against a pillow.

I opened the door, and in swarmed a red cloud dusted with silver. Had I not been wearing my cowboy boots, this cloud would have, no doubt, knocked me over. This red was alive--but not "alive" in the same way that you and I and all 7 billion of us are alive. No, this red was life. It carried the lives of everything living and everything that has lived. It exhaled a Jurassic breath and inhaled a Cambrian sigh. In its blur and static I could hear the patient shifting of tectonic plates. I heard the fluttering of aquatic tails in shallow waters. I heard reptilian roars and insectual hums and the skeletal barking of dogs. The first fire. The first human yawn. I heard all of this, and I felt it, too.

As this cloud swirled and pulsated around my ankles and calves, I felt the way people feel after waking up from a dream where they are falling off the side of a cliff. Except I didn't want to wake up. I wanted to fall and fall and fall. I wanted this cloud to take me in and send me flailing into the universe like a curly-headed crab nebula. I wanted this thing to take me out of time and body and aluminum siding completely. I was willing to sacrifice everything to keep falling out into a sky of black holes.

"Thank you for opening the door," the cloud whispered as it wound its way around my thighs and waist. It was both cumulus and the deep inhale of a black hole--at once both a sprawl and a contraction. A small town on the verge of greatness. Her velocity, something I felt more than witnessed, moved in all directions at once. It sent my skirt into a flowering halo about my waist. My shirt began to unthread itself as it circled its way around my torso and chest and neck. The beads of my necklace tore from the chain and ricocheted off the walls like BBs or catapulting squirrel teeth. My hair sprayed outward like the branches of an ancient tree. Black cherries sprouted from the tip of each curl.

This cloud made every part of me move and grow and redden. My ears extended into great rouge satellites while, simultaneously, they grew inward like ruby snails. I heard, at once, the red electricity of my brain. It sounded like a thousand eels winding around the peach of their beginning.

My lips and skin and fingertips and toes bouqueted into red carnations; their roots flowered into me, tasting and licking and tickling the grapefruit layer beneath my skin.

The scent of cherry pie and cherry candy and cherry lip balm suddenly filled my nostrils. Like a dog, I could smell each scent individually: the pie, the candy, the balm. Then, as if someone flipped on a switch in my cerebral cortex, every distinction of fragrance blurred and I could only smell "red." No longer was there pastry, candy, or lip gloss--there was only red, and, oddly enough, I could smell it. I could smell the color red.

This synaesthetic transformation occurred not only to my sense of smell, but to my other senses as well. Suddenly, all that I could see, feel, smell, hear, and taste was Red. I felt like I had been thrown into a universe of red jelly and was clumsily slicking toward the heart of it. The red cloud, sighing now as it took over every part of my apartment & soul, had somehow opened up a new dimension and thrown me into it. In this new dimension there were no jobs, cats or cell phones. Nor were there any blogs. (Yikes!) Heck, people didn't even exist in this realm! All that existed was Red--all shades of Red.

I sensed that this world, this Red dimension, was the world from which the red cloud was born. No, it was more than that--this new dimension was the birthplace of Red. All things Red came from this realm. But why did this cloud choose me to be the witness of this crimson genesis? So I asked it, and this was its response:

"Do not be afraid, girl. Give yourself to Red, and you will be rewarded."

Give myself to red? Huh? What does that even mean? And does that really answer my question?

"Do not resist. Turn off your brain. Slide into it."

Not knowing what any of this meant, I tried doing what the voice of the red cloud had ordered. I allowed my body to go limp, closed my eyes, and switched off my thoughts. For a moment, I felt as if I no longer existed. I could feel every coral molecule of my body fluttering like a fruit fly, trying hard to stay aligned with the others in the flock. Slowly, though, each molecule dissolved into the red surroundings, and I (or at least my physical form) no longer existed.
My body dissolving in the Red Realm

All that remained was thought, and even that was dissolving into cellular pomegranates. So this is what if feels like to be Red, I thought. I was a chunk of coal, ignited. I was the reddest eye of a photograph. I was the lips of the prettiest girl in the class. I understood Red because, at that moment, I became that bloodiest and lipstickiest of colors.

The red cloud witnessed my progress approvingly:

"Good, yes. Very good. Now you know. Mmmm hmmmmm. You are now ready, girl."

As quickly as my body dissolved into Red, my form was reconstituted into human-woman form. First my feet, then my calves-and-knees-and-thighs. The hips next, then the torso-chest-shoulders-and-neck. Finally, the molecules of my head and its bushy, ratty hair vacuumed into themselves, and I was once again a whole human.

A little stunned, I asked the cloud what had just happened. Why was I chosen to witness, uh...whatever I had just witnessed?!

"You were invited to witness the core of Red. We wanted you to understand our place of origin, which, in a sense, is your origin, too. After all, all of you--all humans--survive because of us. Everything inside of you is red--your blood, your heart, your brain, your love, your embarrassment. Oh, yes. We are in all of you. We, those of the Red World, give you life. However, you are on the verge of forgetting us. Each day you dream dreams made of metal and plastic. You speak in pixels. You speak words that are fractions of what you actually mean. You think in decimals and apologies. And when you hug, your arms are like wires stripped of muscle and skin. You are turning away from us."

This message was confusing, especially since I was receiving it from a red cloud. I wasn't quite sure what I was being asked to do. But then my mission was made more clear:

"In your very own kitchen, you have the tools with which to reveal the Red dimension to other humans. By denying the Red World, you deny your Red Blood, which will only distance you from your body and make you ill. Here: takes these ingredients and make something wholly Red."

The cloud whirred through my kitchen, flinging open cupboards and drawers. A jar of cherry juice suddenly appeared on the kitchen counter, as did measuring spoons, bowls, and a bag of sugar.

"Take these, and remake what you just experienced in the Red World. Remind humans that we of the Red World still exist. Remind them that we course through their veins!"

And, with those last words, the cloud tornadoed toward my door like, well, a tornado. In what seemed like one, fluid motion, the door flew open and slammed shut, leaving me standing in the middle of my kitchen without any clothes on. (The cloud unraveled my threads, remember?)

So, I approached my pile of ingredients and set to work on what would be the purest, most gelatinous tribute to the Red World ever created: Black Cherry & Thyme Jelly. (Despite their name, black cherries are really a deep, rich, almost-purple hue of red.) This carmine jelly is velvety, prehistoric, and sophisticated; after all, it represents all life on earth from the beginning of time to infinity. Man, a lot of knowledge can be packed into that lifespan, you know?

Since I'm supposed to spread the word about your ruby-red origins and all, the jelly recipe is outlined for you below. As you prepare it in your own kitchen, think of your veins and your heart and your red, red thoughts. (Then think of all the tasty crepes you'll be able to yield from this sweet batch of jelly!)

Black Cherry and Thyme Jelly
(This recipe is adapted from this site.)

1 cup sugar
1 cup black cherry juice
3 sprigs of thyme
1/2 packet of pectin (a plant-derived gelling agent you can find in most grocery stores near the canning supplies)

1. Bring your black cherry juice to a boil in a large saucepan, and then take it off the heat. Add the sprigs of thyme, stir, and allow flavor to infuse for 30 minutes.

2. Once mixture has cooled, extract the sprigs of thyme, and add the pectin to the juice. Stir until fully combined, and then return the saucepan to the stove. Bring mixture to a boil.

3. When juice is once again at a boil, add sugar and stir continuously until the jelly slithers all snail-like off of your mixing spoon. This took me about 20-25 minutes.

4. Remove from heat, and allow jelly to slightly cool. Pour jelly into jars, and store in the fridge. I didn't mess around with proper sealing and such, which would make this jelly last until the end of time. Instead, I just used small screw-cap glass jars, which should preserve this jelly for a good 2-3 weeks.

1 comment:

Hadley Gets Crafty said...

Oh, it's that time of year again! Jelly and jam making season! Perfect timing, since I just used up the last of my peach preserves from last summer.

Your herb/fruit combo sounds deeeeelicious.