When I was in sixth grade, I realized that it was time for me to start plucking my eyebrows. They were getting pretty bushy compared the other girls’, girls who had clearly either been blessed with naturally perfect brows or who had raided their mother’s bathrooms for tweezers a summer earlier.
Plucking your eyebrows for the first time is a harrowing task, especially when you are 12 years old with no adult supervision. I yanked out tiny hair after tiny hair, first from this side, then the other, but they just wouldn’t even out! I had been in that bathroom for at least an hour trying to get my eyebrows to balance when madness set in and I thought: I’ll just shave them off.
To this day, I’m not sure what my real thought process was. All I remember is the aftermath. Me, staring into the mirror at a person who bore a shocking resemblance to E.T. Tears welled up in my eyes, though the sadness of my expression was difficult to detect without eyebrows to emote for me.
Of course, that night my family was going out to dinner, and with my sister’s boyfriend, who I hadn’t yet met. My dad called up the stairs to me to get ready because we would be leaving soon. I wiped the tears from my eyes and tried to look normal. I snatched up a black eyeliner pencil from my mom’s makeup bag and shakily drew on some pretty miserable eyebrows, then covered the mess up with my bangs, which were tragically—albeit fortunately, for this set of circumstances—heavy and thick at the time.
In television shows, when a character is given terrible news all the sounds around him fade out, as if the character is too overcome by his own thoughts to pay attention to anything else. That’s pretty much exactly how dinner went for me. I picked at my food. I was very preoccupied with making sure that my bangs did not stray from my forehead. Whatever my parents or sister or her stupid boyfriend were saying didn’t matter. I had no eyebrows, for God’s sake. How were they just eating dinner and acting like the world wasn’t ending?
I broke the news to my dad in our driveway when we got home and slowly lifted up the curtain of my bangs to show him what I had done. My eyes were averted in my shame, so I didn’t get to see his initial reaction, but he did the best to reassure me that they would grow back and that we could just draw them on and hide them with my bangs until that time.
I became pretty confident in that routine, and one day felt ballsy enough to go to school without drawing on my eyebrows, thinking my bangs would hide my baldness. In Social Studies class that day, our teacher had set several handouts on top of the air conditioning under the windows. The kind that blows air straight up. As I passed through to pick up the papers, my bangs flew upward, briefly revealing my bare forehead. I quickly reached up and held my bangs down, but the damage was done.
“Maria, let me see your eyebrows,” said Kelly. I retorted, in classic sixth grade fashion, “I don’t have to show you my eyebrows if I don’t want to.” Totally something someone with eyebrows would say.
Eventually, they did grow back, and I got the hang of eyebrow plucking. My dad told me, after they had come back in, that he had read on the internet that some people’s eyebrows don’t grow back after being shaved, and I was glad that he had spared me of that information.
- 2 cups (475 grams) heavy cream
- ½ cup (110 grams) whole milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water, plus more for water bath
- 1 ounce (28 grams) milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 6 large egg yolks
- Preheat oven to 325°F. In a small saucepan, combine heavy cream, milk, vanilla, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
- In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water and cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar dissolves, swirl the pan occasionally until the sugar turns dark amber in color, about 10-12 minutes. While the sugar is caramelizing, use a wet pastry brush to wipe off any sugar crystals that cling to the side of the pan. When the desired color is reached, remove the caramel from the heat and slowly whisk in the warm cream mixture. Stir in the chocolate pieces and whisk until melted and smooth.
- Whisk together egg yolks in a large bowl, then gradually whisk in hot caramel. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into another large bowl or a large measuring cup (the spout will make it easier to pour into the ramekins).
- Distribute the liquid among six ramekins and place them into a roasting pan. Add hot water to the roasting pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the top of the roasting pan with foil and carefully place it in the oven, so as not to slosh the water into the ramekins! Bake until the edges are set but the centers still jiggle slightly, about 60-80 minutes.
- Remove the roasting pan from the oven, taking care not to splash the water into the custard Remove the foil and remove the ramekins from the water bath and place onto a wire cooling rack. Allow them to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours until they set up. Sprinkle with sea salt before serving.