Holiday Digest: La Tire


By Cecile Sarruf

La Tire

She places a tall silver pot over a blue flame and prepares la tire for the holiday; dark molasses, the color of wet tree bark, boils to a bubble. We sisters slowly migrate to the kitchen and watch as mother silently stirs with a tall wooden spoon. I can still see her in my mind’s eye, dutiful in the silver winter sunlight. Behind her, on the countertop, we gather at the bar stools with curiosity and anticipation. A long sheet of wax paper has been laid out. On this, she places butter in preparation for the hot taffy she will carefully pour into thin strips for cooling.

“Don’t touch,” she warns. “You will burn your fingers.”

We wait. Finally, we each get a warm dollop to mold and pull between our buttered fingers into a cooled twist: la tire. We will stand side to side, sucking on this sweet candy, joy and laughter between us.

Set in late November,St. Catherine’s Daytaffy had mysteriously found its way into my mother’s kitchen. The 17th century French-Canadian tradition was the only take-away from the brutally cold climes of a country my mother never initially wished to move to, having once hailed from Cairo. It was created for unmarried girls over the age of 25 seeking a husband, St. Catherine of Alexandria being the patron saint of unmarried girls. As the historical story goes, maple syrup was brought to a high boil then tossed onto the snow, where young men and women would seek to pull at the confection between each other in hopes of setting their hearts on a future mate. From Quebec, she brought the recipe to Southern California. Maple syrup or molasses, the French-Canadian tradition of la tirebecame part of our holidays.

Decades later, I glide down Highway One on a festive evening to Laguna Beach, where a dear friend awaits my arrival. The sky is black and the sea breaks against the rocks in white cap. Next to me on the car seat is a foil-wrapped pan of stuffed grape leaves. Sometimes it is my homemade baklava made with my mother’s secret syrup. I don’t dare attempt the trickier taffy molasses confection mother once made, the one in hopes of bringing me a husband. I’m certain my mother believed her faith was exemplary in all facets of life, if not near miraculous around the holidays. Despite her unmarried daughter, I’m sure she’d approve of her traditional culinary delights having been twined with the present to concoct a feast worthy of shared indulgence.

Cecile Sarruf writes fiction, creative nonfiction, and essays. When she is not writing, she is preparing her mother’s delicacies to share with friends.


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