Defacing things with writing

“What I really want is someone rolling around in the text” by Sam Anderson


This one is old, but I discovered it today while trying to find an easy way to annotate things digitally – webpages, documents, everything. Anderson’s meditation on the joy of marginalia is bittersweet for me. I love the idea of writing things in books as I read them, but I have never been able to do it; either I find myself reading with nothing to say (surprising, you might say, for a writer) or I find myself completely stunted by a lurking perfectionism. It might seem neurotic in an absurd way to say that I haven’t written things in books in the past for fear of writing something stupid, but there it is. “Errors, mistakes, even slight… discrepancies,” says Perfectionism with disgust, sliding his glasses further up his crinkled nose, “are not to be tolerated.” And so I put the pencil down.

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Chaos is an organising principle for peanut brittle. You spend time bringing together the ingredients, mixing them all up, heating them in the pan until they’re a thick, caramelised, unctuous substance. Then you spread the mixture in a sheet pan and let it set until you’ve got this shining, dark brown plain, rolling with hills of little hidden peanuts. Bringing order and uniformity to the whole mess. You wait for it to harden.

Then you smash it to bits.

My uncle makes peanut brittle at Christmas sometimes, and distributes it in little jars through my grandmother. They’re full of chunks and shards of peanut brittle, some tiny little crisps of sugar, others a nice balance of brittle and nut and others just a peanut or two stuck together with brittle. Variety is the spice of life.

When my brother and I were kids, our grandfather used to buy us pic’n’mix from the sweet shop in town, Ricci’s. They came in little white paper bags (as all good sweets do) and always had a good mix – Raspberry Ruffles, Strawbs, these white mint discs that turned into a fondant like substance after a minute or two in your mouth, and tasted like spearmint at first, then toothpaste (they were one of my favourites), barley sugar, butterscotch, Everton mints, humbugs, fruit jellies. And peanut brittle.

This peanut brittle was two peanuts encased in opaque, beige hardboiled sweet mixture, to make them look like two peanuts still in their shell. They were printed with a peanut shell pattern that was too uniform and reminded me uncomfortably of fabric sticking plasters.

They were possibly the only part of the pic’n’mix that I didn’t like. The type that came smashed up like gravel in a jar, were much, much better.