1974-75 Sense and Nonsense

At a recent female gabfest the conversation changed from “what’s the matter with kids today” to “weird things we did when we were children.”

One woman related how she would sometimes make chocolate fudge in her mother’s absense, clean the kitchen thoroughly to destroy the evidence, and stuff the candy in her pockets to eat at her leisure.

I have never in my life been able to make chocolate fudge that I could hide in my pockets. That is, unless I had leak-proof pockets. My fudge has always had the texture of molasses (in August). I used to believe that was because my fudge never passed the “soft ball” test. I have spent hours dropping small amounts of boiling chocolate into cupfuls of cold water. The chocolate is supposed to form a soft ball when it’s the right texture.

There were times when I used up almost every cup in the house (and almost all of the chocolate as well) My fudge never quite attained that hoped for “soft ball stage.”

Most of my life has been spent cooking, mostly for love but sometimes for money. My cookbooks  bear evidence of decades of culinary experiments, many of them successful. I can cook a steak and bake a pie. I have travelled the world in the confines of my own kitchen. All the way from Egg Foo Yonge to Spanish Rice. I faithfully watched The Galloping Gourmet and Madame Benoit when they had TV shows. Once I even bought a Playgirl Magazine because someone recommended the recipes. However, I have yet to find a successful recipe for chocolate fudge.

A few Christmases ago I thought I had the perfect recipe. A friend had made some delicious old fashioned fudge and she gave me the recipe. In my optimistic ignorance I tried to triple the ingredients and make some to send to our parents for Christmas. I boiled the candy mixture in a giant pot, stirring it constantly with a giant spoon. I excitedly allowed a thin brown drop to fall into a cupful of cold water.

Wonder of wonders! It formed a soft brown ball! I could hardly believe it! I had finally passed the “soft ball test”. The rest was easy. I beat in the butter and vanilla and poured the gorgeously gooey mixture into three large pans.

Three hours later the candy was still soft. The children arrived home from school. They sniffed the fudgy air as they entered the house. My oldest daughter spoke sympathetically to her younger sister.

“Poor Mom, she’s trying to make fudge again! It happens every Christmas!”

The fudge eventually made its way into the deep freeze where it finally hardened. The kids happily sucked on “fudge-sickles” for weeks and I baked cakes and tarts to send to our parents for Christmas.

I wish I could make fudge like my daughter did when she was only eight years old. She belonged to Brownies at the time,  and fudge making was one of the tests. This daughter was and still is, a pinch and dab type of cook. Her proportions are governed by instinct, and any resemblance to the measurements measured in the recipe, are purely coincidental. Consequently she is sometimes a brilliant cook. She somehow managed to ignore my screams of “you’re supposed to use an 8 ounce cup!” and “It says a teaspoonful!” to make the most delicious fudge I had ever tasted.

Christmas is approaching and my old fudge-making muscles are twitching. This year I shall ignore them.

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