My mother makes the best cheesecake and her oatmeal cake is fought over by all the children but things were different forty years ago. In the sixties it was the fudge.
After Thanksgiving my mother would set up her kitchen like a laboratory. She would have books open flat on her counter, a dark bubbling chocolate stew on the stove and glasses of various sizes full of water on the counter. Like a mad chemist she would toil over them with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth trying to make fudge.
This year was going to be different she told us. This year we would be able to eat fudge. How many years had I heard that? My paternal grandmother made rich fudge that was a meal unto itself and it made the four hour car ride to her house (she lived almost five miles away) worth it. My mother’s fudge on the other hand was more like soup.
She had thermometers to test the temperature of the cooking fudge. She would take a spoon, dip it into the fudge, then drip it into the glasses of cold water. She would watch it sink with a look in her eye that was akin to mania. After a few sweaty hours over the stove she would yell, “I did it! You will have fudge this Christmas!” and pour the fudge in the pan. As she poured she would explain how it was the right temperature, how it formed a ball when it was dropped into the water. We all salivated at the thought of picking up a piece of fudge and actually eating it.
Time stood still. The next day my mother would take the fudge out of the refrigerator and cut a piece for each of us. Each time it was the same. The knife would sink in and her face would drop. Then she would laugh, pull a spoon out of the drawer and scoop us out a cup. It was delicious as usual but like soup.
My family had a reputation in the neighborhood as being different (I don’t know why). One Christmas I had a couple of friends over and offered them some fudge. I poured them each a small glass and gave them a spoon. For some reason they didn’t seem to get the same joy that we got out of it.
My mom hasn’t made fudge in years. She told me that she lost her recipe book and can’t make it any more. I love the holidays but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without a glass of fudge.