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The Curious Case Of Pomegranate Molasses

"Scarcity often results from a passionate and sincere lack of imagination."

I recently found a terrific granola recipe. I'd grown weary of the available commercial choices to the point where I'd just stopped buying the stuff, switching to plain steel cut oatmeal. The store-bought stuff tended to be way too sweet and often came packed with stuff no self-respecting consumer should attempt to swallow, like coconut, about as saturated a fat as exists, on the far side of even leaf lard, or so I imagine. I wanted no dried fruit, which inevitably turns into a sort of molar-cracking nut when included into the mix. I can add dried currents or blueberries to the bowl, and don't need some thoughtful individual to bake them into unchewable additions at the factory.

The Muse encouraged me to just make my own, but acknowledging myself as nobody's baker, I quietly demurred.
Then I found this great recipe and mixed up a batch. The recipe called for maple syrup, a sweetener probably best left to accompany my blue corn flour pancakes, but certainly not granola. I substituted Pomegranate Molasses, one of the many curious condiments our larder holds. The results proved fantastic, aromatic as well as flavorful. I was instantly hooked. I made subsequent batches, each featuring this unusual substitution, and each just as satisfying as its forebear. Then, yesterday, I set about making a fresh batch. Arriving at that step near the end of the ingredients where I add my secret ingredient, only to find the larder bare of it. The Muse couldn't remember using the last of it and neither could I, but our eyes weren't lying to us. Our cupboard was bare.

I admit that I panicked. I had the olive oil already measured out and the brown sugar already in the mixing bowl with the thick oats, chopped almonds, raw sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and the whole raw filberts. (I always add the oil before adding any sticky liquids because I can measure out the sticky liquid into the empty oil measure and thereby sidestep any sticky residue.) I excused myself and drove down to the last place we'd bought the secret ingredient, only to find an empty shelf there, too. I zoomed over to another possible source, but found them also lacking. I called a third possible source before zooting over there, only to learn that their cupboard was likewise naked. I drove back up the long hill with my mind racing. I'd have to imagine a substitute for the substitution. What would I use?

On the return trip, I remembered that the Pomegranate Molasses had originally been a substitution. I don't bake much because baking tends to be too picky for my substituting nature. The Muse and I maintain a deep larder, engaging in a fresh round of Stump The Checker every time we visit a grocery store. Just yesterday, we found a small cache of Buddha Hand Citron which The Muse could not resist, though that purchase along with the chicories, stumped the checker, causing her to place an emergency phone call to the produce manager. We have an array of curious sauces, legumes, and pasta shapes, several of which have completely substituted what might more easily pass for regular food, the Pomegranate Molasses being just one of dozens. What might substitute for the substitution?

I'd already made a fool of myself, rushing eight miles down to fail to find a replacement. A clever substitute for the substitution might somewhat redeem this sinner. I decided to combine that last drizzle of black current syrup with a jar of The Muse's homemade high-pectin apple jelly. Mixed together, I figured I'd achieve a viscosity similar to the originally prescribed maple syrup and with a somewhat similar appearance to the unavailable Pomegranate Molasses, so that's what I did. I recognized that I'd engaged in one of the more common really stupid human tricks, getting fixated on a fix as if it represented the only possible resolution. I've heard myself proclaim that every dilemma might have an infinite number of possible resolutions, but being human, I generally manage to pre-consciously winnow a universe down to a single, sometimes unavailable alternative. This strategy tends to utterly undermine any notion of choice or free will, as I gleefully imprison myself within an inevitably disappointing choice. Only after I'd accepted that I could not, for love or money, acquire my heart's desire, a seemingly SmallThing, did I began reconsidering possibilities. My coerced choice produced a remarkable result, flowery scent and fine, subtle sweetness. I might not ever consider the Pomegranate Molasses substitution again.

Once imprinted, forever insisted upon. I still don't recall using the last of our treasured Pomegranate Molasses reserve, but I have already searched for and found a recipe for concocting my own. It's no mysterious component, easily created. I need not rely upon an obscure supplier should I ever again feel compelled to use that stuff. I have so many alternatives that they seem to blind me to their existence. The Muse suggested this morning that we might want to consider trying to eat out of our larder for a month, and it could possibly come to that should a pandemic really come calling. We could more than survive, though by the end of that month, we'd be stretching even our broad palates to swallow our suppers. Scarcity often results from a passionate and sincere lack of imagination. There's probably a ready substitute for everything but homegrown tomatoes.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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