Praline Payola

Flying has become so adversarial, stressful, and downright unpleasant, that travelers fully expect to be harassed and assaulted by both the TSA at security, and airline employees. On all sides, common sense has become obsolete. Americans have given away their freedom and dignity with both hands to satisfy the fever dreams of security “experts”, with no identifiable payoff.  And, until we rise up en masse and say we’re not paying one more penny to be folded, spindled and mutilated—that we demand to be treated as human adults and not free-loading hamsters, the institutional abuse will continue.

But, sometimes, folks gotta fly.  Even me, on occasion.  But I dread it.

Back in 2011, The Kid was finishing up freshman year at college in Vermont and Petey and I needed to bring our child and the accumulated miscellany and rubble back down to NC.  Because of time constraints, the plan was to fly up and rent a van to transport child and possessions.On top of all the potential pitfalls and logistic complications, I was stewing over an entirely new possible fly in the travel ointment.

Because of a catastrophically broken leg when The Kid was in elementary school, Petey often needs to use a walking stick.  He has three.

One is a spindly bamboo model.  Nope.

This is not Petey, nor has Petey ever worn white gloves and a top hat.  I suspect this guy might be a magician.  His poor mother.

One is a Scarlet Pimpernel-level cool authentic sword-cane that I purchased for him one Christmas.  Once it arrived I discovered that it’s considered a concealed weapon, and couldn’t even leave the front porch without the commission of a couple of felonies.  So…nopeThe last is a very sturdy hiking/walking stick that’s reliable, strong, and doesn’t make him look like a pretentious fop.

Just one problem, though.  The end screws off, and underneath is a pretty sharp point for hiking in uneven terrain.  But as you may have heard, the TSA have a certain bias against anything sharper than popsicle sticks.

So, what to do?I decided to employ the time-honored tradition of bribery.

I had already planned on taking a batch of my company cheese straws and creamy pecan pralines for The Kid to share with friends on their last night in the dorm.  I made up a few goody bags to pass around to the TSA, and anybody else who looked like they had any possible authority over us getting to the Green Mountain State.

Creamy Pecan Pralinespecan pralines    *3 cups chopped pecans

    * 2 cups light brown sugar, packed

    * 1 cup granulated sugar

    * 1 ½ cups heavy cream

    * 1/3 cup whole milk

    * 6 tablespoons butter, salted

    * 1 ½ teaspoons salt

    * 1 vanilla bean, scraped

Preparation:

Toast pecans:

Heat oven to 350°. Spread chopped pecans out on large baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until the chopped pecans are lightly browned and aromatic.In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream, milk, butter, empty vanilla pod, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, to 230°. Add toasted pecans and continue cooking, stirring constantly, to 236° F.

Remove from heat; let stand for 5 minutes. Add vanilla beans and stir with wooden spoon until mixture is thickened and slightly creamy, about 1 to 1 ½ minutes. Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, spoon the pralines onto a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper. If the mixture becomes grainy, heat and stir over medium heat for a few seconds, or until it can be easily scooped and dropped.Makes about 4 dozen.

Did they work?

Well, I’ll put it this way.  Petey still has his stick, and The Kid is not stuck in Vermont, waiting for a ride home.

Thanks for your time.

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