clementines in syrup (with maple walnut wafers)

Hello, Monday. Beck’s “Loser” booms from the kitchen where David scrambles eggs in a bowl and Luke builds a fort from cardboard boxes. I’m sitting at the other end of the house, in bed. I need a quiet space where I can watch the fog slide downhill into the muted fall gray. More hand clapping and counter top drumming catches my thoughts. “I was a teenage anarchist…,” Luke (who is now three-and-one-half) sings as he stomps into the room.


I photographed a bowl of clementines last week just hours before I hung a new series of still life photographs titled From My Kitchen at gallery/bike shop in Amherst. I couldn’t resist. The light was exquisite. I printed the photo and quickly added it to the collection of black 5 x 7-inch frames.

The shop reserves a few walls for gallery space, one along a set of stairs, another facing the front window—both require a ladder to reach the wall. I arrived around 3:30 pm and needed to get the show up by 5pm when the Amherst art walk was to start. It didn’t go exactly as planned.

Clementines at dusk

An hour later, six of the twenty-two frames were on the wall. Sixteen left to go. I hammered another nail into the wall then watched in with estrangement as each frame hit the stairs one by one. Now what?

Maple Walnut Wafers

The gallery/shop owner and I set to work. Two nails per frame instead of one. Pushpins in place of nails, one, two. None of which worked. The frames tumbled off the wall with each variation. Fast, denting and nicking the wood. We needed a new plan.

I went to the college bookstore a few doors down. Binder clips, plastic sleeves, framing wire? What am I going to do? The night before the show, I spent five hours framing the photographs. Five hours chasing dust across glass. I stared at the supplies. I sliced my finger and almost bled on a print. Okay, I said pacing the store, you can either quit or keep going. What’s it gonna be?

Artist tape, graph paper, clothespins, and twine. That’s it. A kitchen journal. Tape the photos to graph paper. Clip the paper to twine. Hang like a clothesline. By 6:30 pm, the show was up.


It’s not how I thought it would look, but it worked. Somehow.

I stepped back from the gallery wall and saw the photos for the first time. A bowl of clementines covered with a sheer gaze of light. Perfect, whole. Then cut through, skin exposed and simmered in an apricot jam syrup. Thin crisp cookies on a tray. To move ahead, we must step aside to let the frames fall. It’s the story that needed to be uncovered.


Demanded to, actually.

Clementines in Syrup

Yield about 1 cup

6 clementines (zest 1)

1/2 cup natural cane sugar

1/4 cup apricot jam

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons good bourbon

Wash and dry the clementines, grate the zest from 1, and set aside.

Add the zest to a small saucepan along with the sugar, jam, and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, then simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat, let cool for a minute then add the bourbon; set aside.

Work over a small bowl (to catch the juice) and use a sharp knife to carefully remove the rind along with the white pulpy skin from each clementine (the cells should be completely exposed). Cut the clementines crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place them close together in a shallow dish and pour the syrup on top. Cover and refrigerate from 12 to 24 hours. Serve with Maple Walnut Wafers.

Maple Walnut Wafers

Yield about 2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter or vegan margarine (melted)

1/2 cup natural cane sugar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons water

1 1/2 cups white spelt flour

1/2 cup oat flour (grind 1/2 cup rolled oats to make flour)

1/2 cup ground toasted walnuts

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Mix the flours, walnuts, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the melted butter, sugar, syrup, and water together until well blended. Stir in the dry mixture to form a smooth dough.

Scoop about a teaspoon of dough at a time and roll into balls. Place the dough balls onto the parchment lined baking sheets and gently press down with the bottom of a drinking glass to flatten each cookie.

Bake until lightly browned on the edges, about 12 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in a sealed container.


  1. says

    Wonderful! You persevered & it turned beautifully!! I am sure I would have run away from so much calamity, but you stood your ground & were able to come up with an intriguing new alternative for your photographs, which are beautiful ….. the clementine recipe sounds sublime, as well. This was a wonderful example of how one can make lemonade, when given lemons or…. clementines in syrup, when given clementines.

    • ArtandLemons says

      Sally, Thanks for your gracious comment!

      (As for my recent under-the-gun craftiness, I owe so much of that moment to the T.V. show MacGyver…and let’s not forget James Bond).

    • ArtandLemons says

      I have a friend who carries a clementine or two inside her jacket pocket for a readymade snack. The fruit always makes me think of her. And, yes, joy comes to mind.


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