How I found not only balsamic glaze, but also “Grace,” courtesy of “strangers”
The syrup drizzles leisurely over the warm-from-the-grill PANCETTA-wrapped peach slices. What!? I only know balsamic vinegar (bv) as a thin liquid used in salad dressings or for mopping with bread. But here it is, on my visit to Nevada, being squeezed Hershey-syrup style:
I’m skeptical, but to my surprise, the combined flavors pop with “zing!”
Eager to replicate the dish, I stop on my way home from the airport to buy bv glaze. I try two specialty groceries, with no luck. Where to find the elusive “balsamic glaze?!”
Now for the confession: I’m a culinary illiterate. There’s not a cookbook I can digest! What I can devour are books like “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society:”
Have you ever noticed that when your mind is awakened or drawn to someone (thing) new, that person’s name suddenly pops up everywhere you go? My friend Sophie calls it coincidence, and Mr. Simpless, my parson friend, calls it Grace. He thinks that if one cares deeply about someone or something new, one throws a kind of energy out into the world, and “fruitfulness” is drawn in.
In my search for balsamic glaze, I found I’m partial to Mr. Simpless’ definition.
I was drawn to balsamic glaze and when I couldn’t find it, the energy I threw out was a tweet: “I’m on a mission to find balsamic glaze.” Then came an unexpected reply from @hlong8401, “Just make your own! All you need is balsamic vinegar and let it simmer until it’s thick enough to coat a spoon. Easy as pie.” She isn’t directing me to a store, she is directing me to myself.
“waaaait a minute..seriously? Have bv,will try! Thanks!” I try to come across surprised yet rejoicing; I’m actually shocked (had no clue you could do this so of course, never thought to ask) and somewhat intimidated since I have a natural way of making a mess even brewing coffee to go with that “easy as pie!”
I stoke up my nerve and confront the pantry. Brand new bottle. Excellent. I unscrew the plastic cap, put my finger in the pull tab and gently peel…but it goes “RIP!” instead, leaving behind the stopper to which it had been attached.
“Crap.” and “Here we go again,” come to mind. I get out the pliers, pry the thing off, and then, without fanfare, I actually make it! A whole cupful, reduced very patiently to a quarter cup and voila! I’m speaking French and tasting balsamic glaze. It’s not as thick as the one I tried originally, but “great” for a first try.
The next night, my fiance and I arrive just after close at a local restaurant. We’re lucky – the host is kind enough to seat us.
- Kitchen Bar
We have the whole to ourselves, with the chefs preparing a few last dishes. We chat with one of them, John, and ultimately land on the bv glaze subject. He grabs a clear squirt bottle and coaxes some onto my plate. It’s thick. He advises me that I was on the right track but to let it reduce even longer. Then, he draws a big smile, steps away for a sec, comes back with “wait til you try this:”
- …& he presented us with these 2 spoonfuls
By now you’re thinking, “Well, what does all this have to do with ‘Grace?'” I didn’t know until I’d tasted it and even then, I didn’t name it as “Grace” : peach sorbet with balsamic glaze. Divine. New things coming together, things I’d never have expected. John smiles broadly to our responses. We smile back.
There I am. Smiling easy again. Learning new things. Reading and writing. Connecting with my passions, passions that, somewhere along the way of responsibilities, were let go. Connecting with people, in a warm and wondrous way…like I used to. With that unexpected new taste, not just my palate, but my heart was soaring. Though I couldn’t name it at the instant it occurred, I felt it. Only later, when reading the passage from the book, did it click.
I’d been searching for the “elusive balsamic glaze.” I found not only it, but also “Grace”: in someone “out there” answering a question without me really even asking. In me, making it for myself, feeling a part of it. Then, the next night, in enjoying it again, with a new “stranger” in yet another way. And, to recollect now, in that I am reading “The Guernsey Literary” story on the advice of a dear internet friend whom I’ve never met in person. The book itself tells the story of Julia, a writer in post-WWII, who is learning from people she has never met.
“Grace” in a secular experience is “the condition of being favored by someone” and in religious tone, “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and bestowal of blessings.”
I feel both favored and blessed. The way I’d come to find the glaze reflected back to me how connected we each are to one another in this world. It also gave me the feeling that I am being restored, somehow, to a place within myself that feels like home. It’s always said that’s where Grace will lead you. And, @hlong8401 was right…making balsamic glaze was “easy as pie”; piecing together and identifying the experience as “Grace” was easy as “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.”