I know this probably sounds strange, but one of the most profound moments of my entire Christmas season happened while I was in the kitchen, making candy.
I make a mean peppermint bark. It’s basically crushed peppermint candies mixed into melted white chocolate, then broken into chunks after being spread out and cooled. I also add dark chocolate drizzle or chopped Andes mint candies to mine, because who doesn’t like a little extra chocolate with their chocolate?
In years past, I delegated the candy-crushing to my husband. Those little round Starlight mints are very difficult to break, and Donnie, with his greater upper-body strength, could always accomplish the task in no time.
But last week, Donnie wasn’t home and our guests were due to arrive any minute. I had no choice but to handle the pulverizing myself.
I placed the candies in a zip-top bag, and smacked it a few times with my heavy rolling pin. It barely flaked the edges off a couple of the mints. So I tried rolling the pin over the bag, pressing hard, and still—nothing. I realized that if this candy was going to be made, I had to mimic my husband’s actions and really put some muscle behind it.
So I did. I slammed that rolling pin as hard as I could onto one of the candies and watched it shatter into a hundred tiny bits. Then I moved to another, and another, and suddenly, it felt very satisfying, like doing something deliciously wrong.
And that’s when an experience at a therapist’s office came to mind. Years ago, while my husband was deployed to Iraq, I saw a therapist to help me through the experience. Next to her sofa was a basket of foam baseball bats. I asked what they were for, and learned that they were useful for venting anger; clients could use them to hit the sofa pillows to let out their angry feelings.
I laughed. I told her that I could not imagine doing that, or even needing to do that. It seemed so barbaric. She just smiled her quiet smile and said, “Perhaps that’s a sign that you, more than others, might actually need to do it.” And I thought her response perhaps indicated that I wasn’t the crazy person in the room.
But last week, as I smashed that candy, something clicked. And I knew exactly why she thought I needed a little "bat therapy." I also wondered why it took me 43 years to figure this out.
I began to put faces and feelings onto those mints. Bam! That is for the person who totally used me. Slam! That’s for the relative who is rude to my two-year-old because he doesn’t behave like she thinks he should. Crash! That is for the extreme poverty that is hurting my friend. Smash! For the person who lied about my family.
Oh, it felt so stinking good.
And that was the finest, most gloriously crushed peppermint I’d ever worked with — by the time I was done venting, some of those red and white chunks were reduced to pure powder. The resulting candy was probably the best-tasting batch I’d ever made.
I already run a small side business making birthday cakes. Maybe I’ll add a candy component to it as well: Kari’s Krushing Kandies, featuring Powerfully Pummeled Peppermint Perfection, or P4 for short. Just know that if I ever show up smiling like a Cheshire cat, bearing a bag of P4 — you’ll know it’s been a rough week.
Maybe making peppermint bark is the secret to world peace? Because if more people found positive ways to vent their anger, they wouldn’t have to hurt each other.
Thank God for my kids and the Christmas gift they inadvertently gave me. If it hadn’t been for their friends coming over, I wouldn’t have been rushing to make candy on short notice. And who knows how much longer this woman, who was raised to believe that nice girls didn’t act out, would’ve missed out on the delicious, peace-bringing release of physically venting negativity.
Kari may be reached at email@example.com.