So anyway, here I am back home after a refreshing day out at Marian’s snow-covered blog, cozy inside and ready to talk fudge. My dad never claimed to be much of a cook, but he always held the sorts of jobs that meant he had to live by himself most of the time. When I was little he was a logger, and either cooked for himself, or ate in the mess with the other loggers. When I got older he worked on a ranch fifty miles away from home. We spent our summers and most of our weekends there, but in the winters he had to feed himself. In short, he had certain basic skills–he could make pancakes, sandwiches, and potatoes and onions (my Grandpa swore there were none better). He could open soup cans. By and large, though, he considered cooking women’s work.
Except at Christmas. Dad had two contributions he made every year. He made potato candy, and he made fudge. Because he was always at work during the day, he made it at night. I can remember kneeling on a kitchen chair and watching his hands–scrubbed specially for the occasion–working the powdered sugar, chocolate, and butter into a smooth, creamy mass, mixing in walnuts, which he loved, and then pressing it all into a wax-paper-lined pan and sliding it into the freezer.
He cooked by the box, and by the cube. He spooned in “about enough” unsweetened chocolate, dumped in a box of powdered sugar, added a cube each of margarine and cream cheese, and then stuck his hands into the bowl and got to work. Measuring cups, candy thermometers, pans, and recipes never dared rear their heads. This was manly cooking, as done by a man more familiar with engines than mixers. Like Samson pulling the honeycomb from the corpse of a lion he had killed, dad’s fudge owed its smooth, sweet, creamy texture to brute force. It still does. I, too, mix my fudge with my hands. I recommend you do the same.
And since we’re talking Christmas, here’s another one of our traditional Christmas treats: