Frustration and disappointment: the necessary darker side, counterbalanced against… what? Hope? Optimism? No, those don’t quite fit. How about the frustratingly titled “activities of daily living”? [wife edits: how pedantic]. Or—cute–“hobby”. It sounds so innocent, hobby does. “Die hard” is apt; equally dark, but with a muscled, greasy, won’t-go-down-without-a-fight. Hobby sounds weak, doesn’t come close to capturing the blood sweat and tears one throws towards one’s chosen way to pass the time, well, spare time. Die hard works.
Anxiety increases the closer we get to race weekend. I feel poisoned by my own chemical makeup. As race weekend looms as an end of week certainty, the Gearhead settles down to ritualistic re-assembly of the car. Every nut and bolt, every clamp, every hose, is tightened, loosened, prodded, tested, tightened again. The patience with which he approaches each task is beyond comprehension, not to be exhibited in any other facet of life. In short, it’s a miracle. No denying racing is a religion, its church the vault-less blue sky, its altar the winding, black-looped circuit that smells of tar and rubber. Anointed with the vapour of airplane fuel, its disciples dot the surrounding fields, donning whites and coloured flags.
And it’s foreign to me. I’m not beguiled by its metallic incense and blue smoke. [wife edits: incensed more like]. There’s no romance or thick, comfortable history when I watch the Gearhead round the track, wearing a car, a complicated piece of engineering, as one puts on a heavy coat. Instead it’s fear. Pure fear. I can taste the rush of it on my tongue. Is this what love tastes like? [Gearhead edits: sometimes].
If I had my druthers, I would prefer to be standing in the kitchen, inhaling the nectar of honeyed apricots cooking into jam. Love must taste like honey and apricots [wife edits: sometimes]. But I didn’t make the honeyed apricots this year. Ran out of time [wife edits with gritted teeth: tightening bolts, loading cars into the trailer, praying as the gearhead rounded every corner]. [Gearhead edits: you’re supporting me!]. So a shortcut brought me to a different recipe, one that resulted in nothing more than a spread with the consistency of baby food. Disappointment. Cooking: perhaps not religion, certainly ritual, and yes, a hobby; it commands respect and a soft approach. I had a bunch of apricots that were softly fuzzy with the colour of a sunset. Here’s the recipe I should have made.
Honeyed Apricot Jam (from Christine Ferber’s Mes Confitures)
2.5 pounds (1.15 kg) apricots3 cups (600g) sugar
7 ounces (200g) honey
7 ounces (200g) water
Juice of 2 small lemons
Rinse the apricots in cold water. Cut them in half and pit them. Mix the apricots, sugar, water, honey, and lemon juice in a ceramic bowl. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper. Refrigerate and macerate for an hour.
Pour the contents of the bowl into a preserving pan and bring to a simmer. Pour back into the bowl. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and refrigerate overnight.
Next day, pour this mixture into a sieve. Bring the accumulated syrup to a boil. Skim and continue cooking on high heat. The syrup will be sufficiently concentrated at 221F (105C) on a candy thermometer. Add the apricot halves. Boil gently for 5 minutes, stirring gently. Skim carefully. Check the set. Put the jam into sterilized jars immediately and seal. (makes about 6 cups jam).