anxiety · death · depression · introspection · mental darkness · self-awareness · survival · Uncategorized

Death and me


When I was two, I told my parents that life wasn’t fun, because we were all going to die.

Later on, I would often find myself awake at night, on the edge of a panic attack, thinking of death. Not just mine or my family’s, but of the end of the universe.

When I was six, my dad asked me to throw away an empty bottle. It had the skull and crossbones on it. I was sure that just the mere fact of having touched it meant I was going to die. I laid down on the living room couch, looking out the window. ‘Goodbye sun’, I said to myself. ‘Goodbye trees, goodbye clouds…’

When I was seven, I came downstairs after bedtime to use the bathroom. On the television was a documentary about AIDS. Back then it was pretty much a death sentence. They were talking about seropositive people. My blood type is O+. I thought it was a zero. And zero and ‘’sero’’ sound very much alike. I was sick and I was going to die, and no one had told me…

When I was nine or ten, I started reading Stephen King books and crime novels. My fascination for horror, violence, paranormal and crime would go on for many many years. It was maybe a weird way to cope with the anxiety of death, but it was a strangely efficient one.

When I was eleven, I wanted to be a pediatric oncologist, or maybe a researcher. So other kids like my cousin wouldn’t have to die like he did.

When I was twelve, I started writing my own horror stories.

When I was thirteen, I wanted to grow up to become a famous author, but also a medical examiner.

When I was fifteen, my “History of the 20th century” paper was about serial killers, my chemistry paper was about cyanide.

When I was seventeen, something big happened. Someone threatened my life. And I was trapped. Nowhere to go or escape. And it lasted for a while, maybe hours. I was told that even if they didn’t get me that day, it would happen at some point later. That they weren’t making a threat, they were making a promise. I moved out the same day. For several months, I spent my time looking behind my back, wondering if every car following mine was someone trying to find where I live. I spent my time both scared that I’d get killed, and wishing to not be part of this world anymore. I started writing poetry and drawing about macabre and dark themes.


When I was eighteen, that fear of being found went away, but it was replaced by a crippling depression and desire to die. It will never go completely away from this moment on. Unable to concentrate, I failed my science classes. I will not be going into medicine, after all.

When I was twenty, I decide that I will kill myself once I turn thirty. At this point, I reason, my friends won’t be needing me anymore, as they’ll have families and lives of their own. So it will be a good moment for me to go.

When I was twenty-seven, a combination of the antidepressants that I was taking to treat fibromyalgia and the death of a good friend gives me the strength to do some big changes in my life.

When I was thirty-one I gave birth to my son. Despite all the bad things that could happen with a pregnancy, I was not anxious. I was oddly serene about it all. As soon as he was born though, the anxiety came back. My heart is so full of love for him that I hurt thinking I could lose him.

Nowadays, I don’t like horror as much, it tends to make me too anxious. I still love crime things, but I feel much more horrified by it. I still love medical things, but I don’t think I’d ever be able to study in that field anymore. I still stay awake at night sometimes, thinking about my son or my husband dying. I don’t look at the stars very often, because then I will think about the universe dying. Sometimes I still wish I was not alive.

I wish I could say things got better. But they haven’t, not really. I wish I had faith in something so strong that I wouldn’t fear anymore. And even though I might believe there’s the possibility of something beyond death, it’s not strong enough to keep the anxiety at bay. So until then, I will try to keep taking it one day at a time, and not think of the future too much. And I will keep finding a strange comfort in the dark, in the macabre, in the uncanny and in the strange.

cooking · how to · recipe · tutorial

Cooking sugar like a pro

What do candy, caramel, italian meringue, italian and french buttercreams, and nougat all have in common? They all require you to cook sugar to make them. It’s a process that needs precision but is pretty simple and straightforward, so you don’t need to feel intimidated.

All you will need is a pot, sugar, water, and a thermometer or a big bowl of icy water. A brush is also recommended.

Now, the easiest and safest way to do this is to use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the boiling syrup. If you don’t have one or you can’t find it because it’s hiding somewhere in those drawers, don’t panic. It will be okay.

The thermometer-less method

When I was studying baking, my teachers deemed it unnecessary to give us thermometers because, after all, ‘’ real bakers don’t use thermometers.’’ They wanted us to learn to tell the temperature of our preparations by the look and feel of them. It is true that I never saw a thermometer used in the professional bakery that I worked at and it did come in pretty handy a few times in my home cooking to be able to do without the thermometer.

Before starting, you might take a moment to wonder : ‘Why am I doing this? Am I insane? This doesn’t sound like something someone with a sound mind would be doing…’

Alright, now that you have gathered up your nerves, stand in front of your boiling syrup. You will have beside you a bowl of really really cold water (even better if you have ice cubes in it!). Dip your fingers in the water until they feel really cold and then very quickly pinch the syrup with your iced fingers and plunge them back into the bowl of water. Crazy, right? You should now have cooled syrup between your fingers. Its texture will tell you how hot the syrup is. If you do this right, it will not hurt at all. You can also use a spoon to scoop up a little bit of the syrup and dump it in the water, for a much less scary experience, and possibly safer, depending on your level of clumsiness.

Nowadays, if I do have a thermometer, I’ll use it. Why go to the trouble if you have a perfectly good, easier way to do something?

Cooking sugar

First, you need to select a pot. It needs to be big enough that you’ll have plenty of room at the top because once the syrup is bubbling, it rises some. However, don’t choose a giant pot for a small amount of syrup or you won’t be able to stick your thermometer in it and it might cook too fast.

The quantities of sugar and water you’ll use depend on your recipe but a good ratio to follow is 1.35kg of sugar (3 pounds) for every liter of water used (34oz). More water will take longer to cook, as it needs to evaporate first. Less water will cook faster, but if there’s not enough water to make all the sugar wet, you might burn some of it. Put the water into the pot first and then add the sugar. You may gently stir to make sure that all the sugar is wet, but as long as you put the sugar in the water and not the other way around, you should be good.

Sugar is a bit capricious; if you mix it while it’s cooking, you risk having the whole batch crystallize and clump on you. At that point, there’s nothing to do; you’ll need to start over. That’s why you should never mix it and, whether you use a spoon or thermometer (or your fingers for that matter), make sure your implements are clean and free of sugar crystals or impurities.

Once you start heating your syrup you may find that you have a few crystals that are clinging to the side of your pot. You can use a wet brush to clean them off. If you don’t, there’s a risk that you might knock some off in your syrup later on and cause clumping.

Temperature guide

105°C (221°F) – Lissé

At this temperature, if you separate your fingers, the sugar will form a thread between them and then will break. If you followed the proportions of sugar I mentioned above you will end up with a simple syrup or what is called sometimes ‘sirop à 30’. 30 Here means 30° Baumé,  which is a measure of density. This syrup keeps pretty well and can be flavored to soak cakes or help liquefy  an apricot glaze that has gotten too thick.

107.5°C (225.5°F) – Filet

You will still get a thread between your fingers, but it won’t break.

111°C (232°F) – Morve or Soufflé

Morve means ‘snot’ in English. Now if that doesn’t whet your appetite… At this stage the syrup would leave a sticky coating to your fingers but won’t form a thread.

115°C (239°F) – Petit boulé (Soft ball)

If your roll the syrup between your fingers, it will start making a very soft ball that will lose its shape if you let it go.

117°C (242.6°F) – Boulé (Firm ball)

The ball now hold its shape if you let it go, but you can still squish it really easily.

120°C (248°F) – Gros boulé (Hard ball)

The ball is much firmer now and you can still change its shape, but it will resist a lot more.

The ball stages are what you’ll use in the making of fondants, nougats, buttercreams, caramels (the candy kind, not the cooked sugar stage kind), and italian meringue among other things. It will give you an end product that behaves like the syrup itself, in a way. It’s firm and can hold a shape, but malleable and soft still.

125/135°C (257/275°F) – Petit cassé (Soft crack)

The sugar is now forming a brittle layer, that can’t be shaped, but will stick to your teeth if you bite into it.

145/146°C (293°F) – Grand cassé (Hard crack)

The sugar forms a hard layer that you can break and won’t stick to your teeth.

This is the stage used to make decorations out of sugar (blown sugar, pulled sugar, spun sugar, etc.)

150°C (302°F) – Light Caramel

You should see your sugar starting to change color and turn a light golden (if you started with white sugar).

165°C (329°F) – Caramel

The sugar is now becoming a nice brown. You don’t want to cook it too long or it will turn bitter! If you are using the caramel for something that will cook again (for example, crème caramel) it is better to leave it a tad lighter than you want it to be in the end, as it might darken some more.

The caramel stages are used for crème caramels, nougatines, and as glue in croquembouche, for example.

190°C (374°F) – Dark Caramel

Well now you did it. Your sugar is turning black and your kitchen is starting to fill with an acrid smoke. The taste is super bitter. This kind of caramel is only used in small quantities as a food coloring.


Cooked sugar can seem pretty hard to clean up, once you are done, but just fill your pot with some water and bring it to a boil and it should dissolve all the sticky mess.