My love for the maple tree may be a little too intense for polite company. I think it a fine and lovely specimen of arboreal beauty, an asset to the landscape worthy of great admiration and cultivation, to be sure. Its impressively dense, hard-hearted wood is a grand material for the builder, cabinetmaker, and other craftspeople who value its beauty and strength for the long-lived wonder of what can be built from it that lasts for many a generation. Maple trees provide not only shapely plants, much-needed shelter from all sorts of wind and sun and storms, and those delightful little propellers of seed that fill many an hour with wonder for the fortunate child who grows up under the spreading arms of such trees, but also, and this is the crux of today’s paean, they feed me and my fellow maple admirers: their sweet, delicious, delectable life’s-blood; their sap.
I am a sap for maple syrup. And sugar. And pretty nearly all things maple, except perhaps distinctly artificial maple flavors, because why on earth would I want the fake stuff when I’ve supped of the Real Deal? No namby-pamby Grade A syrup, either; I want the darkest, densest, most maple-y syrup I can get, and if I’m not actually eating something like the cute little maple sugar candy lobster pictured above (sigh!), I would just as soon that the sap I’m sipping is as richly maple flavored as it can be.
I had the privilege, tonight, of taking my dessert right in the midst of dinner, in the form of a maple-bourbon milkshake to go along with my seared albacore tuna and grilled salmon entrée. If you think that sounds like an odd pairing, I don’t blame you. But in my defense, I was faced with a fun-filled menu that required getting my sister to agree to splitting our two entrees to share what was already a tough narrowing-down to that number, and my spouse to share the milkshake so that I could still find room to devour all of these goodies in addition to the starter that said sibling and I had already divided, an equally incongruous but also fabulously yummy version of a Caprese salad comprising slices of the biggest, juiciest heirloom beefsteak tomato I have ever seen, lightly salted and peppered, layered with slivers of silky fresh mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and a small wading pool of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Sometimes it’s just too hard to choose one or two things out of the mass of delights on offer, so one is forced to be outrageously excessive in both the quantity and variety of items in which one indulges. Sometimes, I just lean in that direction by nature.
And sometimes, I rejoice that Nature has forced me to fall into a stupor of maple-induced reverie and reverence that says it’s okay to munch on a lobster-shaped hunk of pure sugar until just this side of comatose. Or to drink a wildly sweet, maple-magicked milkshake right along with a mismatched but far from misbegotten dinner. You can decide for yourselves whether this is a criminal level of self-indulgence. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here in the shade of a big old tree, thinking sweet thoughts while I spin its little propellers around to spread the goodness that is maple forestry just a bit further on this earth.