It is a cool autumn evening on a Saturday in the late 1950's. We are visiting a family of four -- a girl of 10, a boy of 5, and their mom and dad.
The family lives in a small house in the suburbs of Chicago. Not a large home by any standards, but large enough for this family for the time being: two bedrooms, a bath, living room and kitchen; with a utility room off the kitchen. In their future is a second story, with large bedrooms and an extra bath, plus a dining room. But for now …
Both of the kids have had their bath, and are in their pajama's (snugly flannel ones, perhaps made by a loving grandma.) Mom has finished all the dishes, and is ready to relax. Dad – well his tasks are just beginning.
Everyone gathers in the kitchen. There is a gas stove on the left wall. The wall opposite the door has the kitchen sink and counter, with a small refrigerator (the kind with one door and a small freezer inside the top of the fridge!) There is a window over the sink that faces the backyard so Mom can keep an eye on the kids during the summer play time. The wall opposite the stove faces the driveway and its window is a favorite one for the kids to peek out at Dad when he comes home from work!
Tonight Dad is going to make his special treat – homemade fudge! Mom went to the store earlier, and there are soda's chilling in the fridge. Orange Crush for mom and sister, root beer for pop and his son.
Dad reaches in the cabinet and takes down the squares of baking chocolate; next from the utensil drawer he pulls out the hand grater. Out of the storage area of the stove comes a heavy aluminum pot—just the right size for making fudge. Dad begins to grate the chocolate into the pot. While he grates, Mom coats the special square fudge pan with butter.
The children's eyes are large and round as they watch – remembering the wonderful texture of the fudge, and the way it melts in your mouth. No marshmallows in their fudge, no siree! Oh, and there are always four corners – one for each person. Corners are special, they have the ever so slightly round crisp edges not found on any other piece.
Once the chocolate is grated, dad adds milk to the pot and melts the chocolate in the milk. A wonderful aroma begins to fill the small kitchen. Excitement builds and the chatter amongst the family members begins to be more animated. More ingredients are added, and Dad stirs continuously until everything is melted. The mixture is brought to boiling and covered.
The timer is set, for the mixture must be cooked for three long minutes. (tick .... tick .... tick) DING! goes the bell. Now comes the fun part -- the fudge must be cooked to "soft ball" stage. Dad begins to stir, and when the fudge "feels right" to him, he takes the wooden spoon and holds it over a glass measuring cup that is filled with cool water. Everyone watches as the fudge drizzles to the bottom. "Oooohhhh .... not quite ready."
Dad goes back to stirring. Soon he lifts the spoon, and the children are delighted as they watch the fudge turn into a soft little ball and drift through the water.
The fudge is removed from the heat, the butter is added and everything is allowed to cool without any more stirring. Then it is time for the vanilla and the "vigorous" beating of the fudge.
Dad begins stirring with the wooden spoon -- faster and faster. The mixture must be very thick and no longer glossy. Soon dad's spoon begins to slow a bit, he pauses and looks. Just a touch of shine. He stirs just a few more times. The fudge is now ready.
He quickly spreads it in the square pan that mom has prepared. He has to be quick or the fudge will harden in the pot. The fudge is set aside to cool. Oh the smell is so strong. The children's mouths are almost watering. But first, dad has one more task -- popcorn!
The small saucepan is brought out, and butter is placed inside. It is set over the pilot light to melt.
Then a large pot is taken out of the storage area. This pot is special -- it is the popcorn pot! That is the only thing it is ever used for. It has been seasoned over time, and mom doesn't dare cook in it and ruin dad's "seasoning"!
A little grease is added to the pot, and it is heated. Then the popcorn kernels are dumped in. Dad begins to gently shake the pot. Once all the kernels are coated and separated, he puts the lid on.
Soon you hear a "pop", then another and another. The kids count the "pops". Dad begins to shake the pot quicker, all the while the "pops" are coming faster and faster until one "pop" blends into another and the kids can no longer keep track! Then as quickly as they began, the "pops" stop. It's time!!
Dad puts the popcorn in a large bowl. He adds some butter and salt and mixes it with his fingers. Then he fills two small bowls, one for the girl and one for the boy. Some is added to mom's bowl, and the rest is left for dad. He drizzles the left-over butter in each bowl.
Everyone tastes a few kernels -- warm and crunchy with just the right amount of salt and butter. Dad grabs the pan of fudge and cuts it into 36 pieces. Oh the children are so excited. The fudge is placed on mom's pretty serving dish. Everyone helps to carry something to the living room.
Mom has spread a blanket on the carpet for the children. Next to dad's chair is a glass of root beer. On the table next to mom's seat is her orange soda; and two small glasses of soda for the children. They put their bowl of popcorn down and sit on the blanket. Mom gives them their soda. Dad passes the plate of fudge and napkins. They are allowed two small pieces and one corner apiece.
The girl takes her corner and sets it aside for last. The young boy eats his corner first - enjoying every morsel with a huge smile on his face.
The small black and white TV is turned on and the family settles in for a special treat .... "The Show of Shows!" Shortly, the children's tummies will be filled with popcorn, fudge and soda. Later as they drift off to sleep, they think of how blessed they are to have such wonderful parents .... and they wonder how long it is until next Saturday, when once again dad will do his magic in the kitchen.
Many years have gone by since those Saturday evenings. Sadly, the dad is no longer here to make his special fudge, nor is the mom here to hug and encourage; neither is the young son here to enjoy it.
The square pan for the fudge now resides in the kitchen of the daughter. With your fingers you can feel the lines where the knife cut each piece; and if you turn the pan just right, you can see the lines from the knife. There is also a discoloration around the pan -- about 1" high where the fudge discolored the pan.
These are such precious memories .... I can see the dad standing there making the fudge, I can hear the popcorn popping in the pan, I can see the mom fixing the soda's, and I can smell and taste the fudge -
.... for I am the young girl.
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This page updated 02/04
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