Oh Fudge!… by JoAnn

A red heart with chocolate melting on it.

It’s that time of year again where everyone who enjoys cooking for the holidays is interested in exchanging recipes. I have always enjoyed cooking when I’m in the mood, that is, and I have always loved finding a new recipe. My favorite ones, of course, are for anything that may be sweet. If there is sugar or chocolate involved, I want to hear about that recipe.

Lately, there has been an upswing in posting recipes for different sweets on social media. I tend to gravitate towards the ones with fewer ingredients and fewer steps to prepare. The easier, the better. Sometimes the most simple recipe can be delicious. I have also learned that the fewer ingredients and steps, the less likely anything will go wrong. That’s a win-win in my book. Today, all this recipe sharing brought back some lovely memories for me.

I grew up watching my mother work hard during the holidays to make all of her family’s favorite goodies. The recipes were always handwritten on a sheet of stationery or an index card. They were yellowed from age and sometimes stained from the occasional spill or sticky fingers during their making. They were more valuable to Mama than anything in her kitchen.

Mama was a perfectionist. She wanted whatever she cooked or baked to turn out exactly as it was supposed to, every time. No exceptions. She once told me that she had tried a new cookie recipe that turned out “Not fit to eat!”. So she took them to the outhouse and dumped them so my daddy would not know she had made something so horrible. I really doubt he would have been upset, but I think if he had laughed at them, her ego might have been crushed.

Everyone that knew my mother knew that she could cook! Especially in her later years, after having experimented with her family for so very long. And one of her specialties was homemade fudge. She made fudge, chocolate, and peanut butter in her retirement years nearly every week. She would cut the fudge into perfect 3-inch squares and wrap each individually in plastic wrap. She would fill a cooler with the fudge and take it to the flea market where she and my dad had a reselling business. No surprise, the fudge was first in sales every week. At only 25 cents apiece, sometimes a customer would rush in and purchase every piece she had. So during the holidays, she made extra. Mama was very proud of her “little candy business.” That being said, you will understand better what I am going to share next.

Long before my Mama and daddy were selling fudge at the flea market, my sister and I were little girls. Mama was a good cook but still learning, as are most mothers. One year she wanted to make fudge. I have no memory of whether or not she had ever tried her hand at fudge before. I must have been around age 5 or 6. Anyway, something must have gone entirely wrong with how my Mama made that batch of fudge. Because instead of setting and becoming firm as it cooled, it remained pretty liquid. I can still remember the disappointment on her face and in her voice. She couldn’t hide it. I remember she was sad that she had “wasted” so many ingredients. We lived on a tight budget, and it was challenging to have enough money for the holiday season. So every teaspoon of vanilla and every cup of sugar was accounted for.

Suddenly Mama calls my sister and me into the kitchen. Mama tells my sister to retrieve the child’s size Blue Willow porcelain tea set Santa had brought her for Christmas. That set was to be treasured and guarded for safety. So, of course, my sister and I got very excited that we would play with it.

After placing the tea set around the table, Mama brings over the “fudge.” She poured some into the little teapot and the small cream pitcher and sugar bowl. She smiled and told us to enjoy our special tea party.

I don’t have to tell you how much fun me and my sister had with this fudge tea party! What a treat it was. We didn’t get sweets daily, not even weekly, so we were in Heaven. We enjoyed that special “fudge” until none was left. Eating it from a fancy little tea set with tiny spoons made it all the more fun. I don’t remember having a belly ache afterward, but I imagine maybe we did. I remember how my Mama took something so disappointing to her and made one of our best childhood memories. I also remember washing the little tea set afterward. That was fun too.

Long gone are recipes handwritten on index cards and notepaper. All you need now is a smartphone and Google. It has been over 22 years since I tasted my mother’s fudge. I still miss it, especially around the holidays. My favorite fudge she made, though, will forever be the batch she poured into that little tea set. She may have thought she failed that day, but as a mother, she triumphed.
Happy Holiday Season to all of you!