“What are you doing?”
My aunt Bonnie could hear sounds over the phone, but couldn’t figure out what on earth I was up to during our annual “Help me!” call I always initiated during the holidays . . . I would inevitably forget some important ingredient for one of the many Christmas goodies I love to make and since Grandma died, Bonnie was my go-to gal for such crises.
“I’m beating the fudge,” I say.
“Is that the recipe that uses marshmellow cream?” she asks.
“I’m pretty sure. It’s the fudge Dad always made.”
“Honey,” she laughed, “you don’t have to beat that fudge. Dad (referring to my Grandpa) brought that recipe home from duPont. The whole point of the marshmellow cream is that you don’t have to beat the fudge anymore.”
“That can’t be right,” I say. “Dad always beat the fudge.”
Bonnie laughed some more as she explained to me that the old fudge recipe required beating, but not this ‘new’ one.
I hesitated for only a moment, remembering my dad and I, his faithful sidekick, standing over the stove, Dad beating the fudge until he broke a sweat, me waiting impatiently for the chance to lick the pan. Dad even taught his brother Richard how to make that fudge just months before Dad died.
There was no way I was going to change this procedure. You might not need to beat the fudge for it to set up, but I absolutely have to. I’m churning memories into each batch with each stir of the spoon.
Bonnie and I laughed as we said our good-byes, both of us knowing that I would go to my grave beating the fudge and teaching the generations that you absolutely have to give it strong-arm treatment for it to turn out right.
That was years ago and in September, it’ll be two years since Aunt Bonnie met her Lord.
They’re all gone. And I miss them terribly.
So it was a wonderful treat to get an envelope from my mother, tucked inside my birthday card, containing all of the recipes my dad’s mom had given my mother over the years, so that she could be sure to make dishes “just like Mom did”, per my dad’s instructions.
Some are in my mother’s handwriting, some even in my Aunt Bonnie’s, and some, rare treasures, in my Grandma’s own hand. And there, the very last one of all, is the peanut butter fudge recipe. Grandma wrote this one herself. Oh, what a treasure! Will she say to beat the fudge, I wonder? You decide.
Peanut Butter Marshmellow Fudge
Cook: 2 cups sugar
2/3 cup undiluted canned milk until it forms a soft ball. Remove from fire add:
1 cup marshmellow creme
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
Stir good and pour into buttered plate.
“Mebbie you can tell a little something about this.”
Notes to the cooks: (1) We always use a 1-pound box of brown sugar and a small can of carnation evaporated milk. (2) If you’re not a candy maker, you form the soft ball by taking a bit on a spoon and putting it into a cup of very cold water and seeing if it holds its shape. (3) Stir constantly while it’s cooking. I don’t even test it until the sugar/milk mixture has come to a rolling boil. (4) This is one of the few recipes from my Grandma with exact measures and that’s not how we make it. I use two big (and I mean big) spoonfuls of marshmellow cream and 2 of peanut butter. (5) Peanut butter varies in taste - don’t skimp on the cheap stuff. (6) I love this fudge with black walnuts - if you like them too, just add a cup of broken walnut pieces at the very end. (7) I don’t know the author of this recipe. If you do, let me know so I can give credit where it is due. If my Grandpa brought it home from work, I’m guessing it came from a friend or that it was a pass-around recipe from some professional kitchen. (8) Finally, I stand by my Dad’s teachings. When Grandma says to “stir good”, that means to beat the fudge until your arm drops off. Trust me, it’ll be better if you do.
In the words of my Grandma, Mary Edra Tennant Pyles, “Mebbie you can tell a little something about this.”