Shinn column: Stirring up fudge with Mother

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 15, 2009

As far back as I can remember, I’ve never cooked in the kitchen with my mother.
On Saturday, I realized exactly why that is.
For reasons I still can’t fathom, earlier in the week, I’d told Mother I wanted to learn how to make her double-decker fudge. Around our house, Christmas was just not Christmas without Mother’s fudge ó one layer of butterscotch, one layer of chocolate.
Every year, it seemed to magically appear.
I figured it was time to learn how to make the fudge. I mean, not that my mother won’t be around for at least the next 25 Christmases or so ó her greatest wish is to live for as long as possible in order to nag me as much as possible.
Still, you should be prepared for stuff like that.
Like the main character in “Walking Across Egypt,” Mother keeps saying she’s slowing down. I admit that I have known her to take an afternoon nap now and then here recently.
Of course, she just completed 550 miles this year in the Salisbury-Rowan Runners Club, so she ain’t slowing down much. But that’s another story for another time.
Back to the fudge.
Mother said it would take an hour, and to come home immediately from a freelance assignment Saturday morning so we could get to work.
Under Mother’s watchful eye, I put together the recipe. A stick of butter, 4 1/2 cups of sugar, evaporated milk, a dash of salt.
Then it was time to stir, stir, stir.
The recipe said to cook the fudge for 5 minutes, but Mother had written out to the side that it needs at least 10 minutes.
I will tell you, it was a lot durn longer than 10 minutes that I stood at the stove and stirred.
“If you don’t cook it long enough it looks, well, you know,” Mother said.
“Mother,” I said, “No, I do not know. That is not something you can write out to the side of the recipe.”
I kept stirring. In a little while, Mother came to check my progress.
“I’ve never seen it look that dark,” she said, peering into the pot at the thickening mixture.
“I don’t know anything about it,” I said. “You just told me to stand here and stir.”
Finally, after what seemed like hours ó hours, I tell you! ó Mother deemed it time to divide the mixture. We put butterscotch chips in one half and Ghiradelli chocolate chips in the other.
Guess what?
Yep. More stirring.
I stirred ’til I thought my dadblame arm was going to fall off.
Mother started reeling off terms like “shiny” and “grainy.” I had no idea what she meant. She hemmed and hawed. She fretted about that fudge.
Finally, we poured the fudge in the foil-lined pan.
We spread out the chocolate first.
“You don’t need to act like you’re gonna kill it,” Mother said.
I decided it was time for me to start washing dishes and she could spread the other layer.
Then I went home and finished painting the kitchen. Daddy came over to check my work later and said I had no business painting. Who knew I had to tape the baseboards? But that’s another story for another time.
While I was slaving away at my house, Mother called.
“This is the best fudge I have EVER made,” she said.
I knew it all along.
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Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury, right next door to her parents.