Sunday, October 12, 2014

Catch and Release

A few artfully-arranged ponds dot our neighborhood. The powers that be stocked them with fish, then posted the rules.

According to the signs next to the ponds, only neighborhood residents are supposed to fish there. Now, do I know my neighbors? Could I recognize twenty faces? Ten? Barely. But when I see some guy in a t-shirt casting his line, and a truck parked nearby, I'm pretty sure he's not my neighbor. If he was, he could have walked to the pond, right?

We get a lot of these "guests." One woman grew so annoyed at the "guests" near her house that she pulled out her camera and snapped pictures of the offenders and their license plates. Myself, I figure I've got no right to police them, not when I'm a frequent trespasser in a great many other neighborhoods, parking at their pools and playgrounds and walking a few miles on their sidewalks.

Another rule at the ponds is "catch and release." I have no idea if the little fishies get tossed back into the water or not. They could be headed straight for somebody's fry pan (inedible as they are) and I would never hear their cries of panic. I'm just as oblivious to the relieved ones swimming in the depths after a brush with somebody's hook and lure.

Not all the caught-and-released are so happy with their fate, at least not in The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum. Here's a story in which the heroine, a young attorney in Manhattan, senses that her man is about to buy the ring and ask the question. So she throws him back in the pond.

Then she wonders if she did the right thing. Not that her fish is terribly willing to be caught again.

I don't know how it all ends yet, but Buxbaum's story explores why a girl does such a thing. After all, her friends thought he was the perfect catch.  He was a doctor, and handsome, and looked endearing when he took Sunday afternoon naps on her couch, his hands clasped across his chest.

Do our heroine's problems have anything to do with her distracted daddy, who is busy playing senator in the state of Connecticut? With an absent mommy, who died of cancer half a life ago?

Buxbaum's writing can really sparkle. But in between the great stuff, she tosses in a lot of heroine-wakes-up-late-scrambles-to-throw-herself-together. Also, there are brief but frequent cow patties, totally unnecessary, but so much a part of Buxbaum's world that she would be genuinely puzzled to hear that some of us really don't find them very funny.

So, you are forewarned.

Our heroine, skittish as she is, doesn't seem like the type to bake a batch of MAN-CATCHER BROWNIES. We baked them here at Bye-Bye Nesquik, and we don't have any men that need catching, or releasing either. We just like stuff that is gooey and chocolatey.

30 Kraft caramels, unwrapped
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 15.25-oz. package German chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350' and line the bottom of a 9x13-in baking pan with parchment paper. Melt caramels with 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk in a small saucepan, stirring mixture occasionally; set sauce aside.

Stir together cake mix, melted butter and remaining 1/3 cup evaporated milk to form a dough. Press 1 1/3 cups of the dough into the pan in an even layer. Bake until puffed but not cooked through, about 7 min. Remove from oven and pour caramel sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle chocolate chips over caramel in an even layer.

Top with remaining dough, crumbled into bits and scattered. Return to oven. Bake until brownies are puffy and set, 10 to 11 mins. more. Cool completely and cut into squares.  Makes 16 brownies, 285 calories each.

This recipe appeared in the now-defunct Ladies Home Journal.

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