I don’t need much to make fudge, one of my favorite guilty pleasures.
By Teresa Swartz Roberts
Blog post 46. Copyright 2021
I remember my little bare feet standing on a chair in front of the kitchen stove and being allowed to stir milk and sugar and cocoa powder together. It was my job to watch the pot, which did eventually boil. Mother waited a few minutes, then dipped a spoon into the mixture and let it drip into a cup of water. She was looking for something called the “soft ball” stage. I didn’t understand what that meant. But Mother knew, and she knew just how long to let the fudge cool with the butter melting into the rich darkness before I could start stirring again.
Stirring seemed to take forever, and I never knew how long it was going to be before I was finished. I was supposed to stir until the fudge had lost its gloss. It was an imprecise science. It was also a treat for all of my senses: The smell of the chocolate, and if we added peanut butter, the smell of it as well; the sweet taste tinged with the bitterness of the cocoa when I accidentally let the spoon drip onto my fingers; the sound of the spoon scraping the bottom of the pan and actually hearing the fudge get thicker; watching the surface of the fudge become less shiny.
It took patience to make fudge back then. There was enough for all of us: my three older brothers, Mother, and me. But it never seemed like it was enough because I had worked so hard for it.
When my son was young, I made some peanut butter fudge that didn’t set up properly, and we took it to a party anyway. Someone there dubbed it “spoon fudge,” and it became one of our favorite treats.
The Boy didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, but spoon fudge was welcome as a rare treat around the holidays or his birthday, especially since My Honey became allergic to peanut butter and couldn’t stand the smell of it cooking. Spoon fudge was special.
Somewhere along the line, I discovered No Fail Fudge, a recipe in the Mound School Cookbook. The teachers and parents of students at Mound Elementary in Dunbar, West Virginia had contributed their favorite recipes to the fundraiser cookbook. It has recipes for some of the best foods I’ve ever tasted in it. Some of the recipes are written in archaic terms that I don’t understand. What is the number two can, and what is a moderate oven?
Now, fudge is still one of my favorites. I literally don’t keep cocoa powder around because I would be making fudge (or brownies, which are another story) every day. Even though I’m trying to put on weight as Parkinson’s makes me thinner, I am resisting eating fudge every single day. Sometimes I make myself a very small batch of peanut butter fudge. I put a third of a cup of sugar and about half that much milk into a microwavable paper bowl, microwave for about 35 seconds until I can see it swelling as it begins to boil, then scoop in enough peanut butter to mix with the liquid until it’s got the right texture for fudge, either traditional or spoon.
Making fudge doesn’t take so much patience anymore because I have learned to take shortcuts. I used to be very much committed to process. I have changed.
With age and Parkinson’s, I am no longer lingering over tasks I used to embrace. Now, I just want what I want. I’m not making memories. I’m making fudge.