Fudge is something I know. It’s in my repertoire. I make it on special occasions like Christmas and I have created a loyal following of people who crave it. My mom is a particular fan and every time I go to visit her, she kind of peeks around at what I bring to see if I have any. She shares it with her aid and with her priest and they have become fans too. My sister loves it. My brother and his family love it. Lola’s family loves it too and her mom was always a big fan. Her dad too. He would take some to work for his colleagues and he when he got home, he would tell me how much everyone enjoyed it. What can I say, I’m a fudge man.
I have no secret. I use the recipe on the jar of Fluff called Never Fail Fudge, and indeed it never seems to fail. I use the recipe that was printed on the jar about ten years ago. The recipe that’s on the current jar has changed slightly over the years – a little less sugar, a little less milk – so that’s why I stick with the original recipe. It was what I know. I think people like my fudge because I cut it into small pieces. This allows you to just grab it and go without having to carve your own piece or having to take a whole block. It tends to be very creamy, sweet and chocolaty. I like it too. But I never make it with nuts. That was just a preference thing. I prefer my fudge to just be chocolate. But today, because it was Nutty Fudge Day, I added in some chopped walnuts and surprisingly, they are kind of a game changer.
I made these on Thursday night after Lola had gone up to bed. I knew I wouldn’t have time to make it on Friday morning and fudge needs some time to set up and cool. It doesn’t take too long to make, probably about a half hour from start to finish. The only taxing part (outside of cleaning up) is the fact that once the sugar, Fluff, butter and milk have all melted together, you have to bring it to a boil and stir constantly for five minutes. That doesn’t sound hard, but boiling sugar doesn’t behave very nicely and when bubbles come to the surface, they like to pop open shooting little tidbits of boiling sugar into the air and often onto the stirrer’s arm. That hurts. It burns on contact and then because it’s sugar and sticks to you, it continues to burn. I always keep a towel handy to help me in such emergencies. After the stirring you remove from heat, add in some vanilla and the chocolate chips and stir until combined. After that, this was when you fold in your chopped walnuts. You mix it together and then pour into a baking pan. Then you just let it cool. Adding the nuts was easy and didn’t really change anything in the preparation. I went to bed with the kitchen smelling of warm sugar and when I woke up, the fudge was chilled and ready to be cut.
I took it out of the pan and started cutting it into pieces. I packed it into two tubs of Tupperware lining it up in orderly fashion and separating each level with a piece of parchment paper. It filled up both tubs minus the piece I tried and the one I slipped to Lola for her to try. First, a nice piece of fudge at 8 in the morning is a good way to give yourself a little sugar rush to start your day and it pairs nicely with coffee. Second, nuts in fudge is a great addition. Honestly I didn’t think my fudge could get any better, but having some walnuts in there really upped the game. It was a particularly good batch of fudge too that was especially smooth and creamy, but the walnuts, which I had chopped on the finer side so there were no big chunks, was a subtle little texture change. Naturally the taste of a walnut goes well with chocolate and this was no exception. I was almost flabbergasted that I had never made it this way before. Well, my nephew has a nut allergy, so I wouldn’t bring it to their house, but in regards to pure taste, the walnuts were a great addition. Lola couldn’t agree more.
There were a couple of careers this week that were being honored with National Days that I have been feeling bad for not having honored more. Nurses were honored all week long and if any specific career has had an effect on mine and Lola’s lives it would be Nurses because Lola’s mom and my mother were both R.N.s. We both grew up as children of nurses which means you get exposed to certain medical terms, you get expert care mixed in with your regular dose of love, and you bear witness to the bond of nurses. Beyond that, we have been affected by the kindness and care that nurse have delivered to us throughout the years – throughout the illnesses and scares. A nurse is just a good breed of person, so I would have loved to have joined in the honoring of them this week, but I just couldn’t get it together. This week was also Teacher Appreciation Week and that’s another calling that has positively affected our lives. While Lola has had a greater bond with the teachers that helped shape her life (I don’t really have that one teacher that stands out, although many who helped guide me), we both know teachers and couldn’t be more grateful for all the energy they put towards shaping the lives of the young in our community. It’s a hard job with delicate lives in the balance of their work. We admire a teachers dedication, appreciate the hard work and just wanted to thank them for all they do. This was something I could help celebrate and I just happened to have a tub of fudge to help me do that.
On my way to work today, I stopped by Portsmouth High School. That’s not my usual morning routine. I had a gift bag with me that I shoddily threw together which held the fudge and I attached a little card to our friend Vicky who is a teacher at the school. She was a teacher there when Lola was in school and she was a person that helped give guidance and support to Lola back in those young adult days. She has continued to be a friend to Lola throughout the years and part of her support system of smart, independent women. She too has been a person I admire for the love she gives Lola but also because I have learned more about her through a Facebook friendship and some brief encounters in town. She’s good people. She’s also a teacher and she also became our way in to the high school. I wrote a quick note with a little sense of mystery to keep her guessing, but I was pretty sure she would know who was behind it all. I brought it into the front desk, said it was for Vicky in the English Department, and they said they would deliver to to her. Then I ditched first period and went on my way.
It felt good to share our bounty of fudge with Vicky and her friends as a small way to say thanks for all they do. I didn’t realize it, but we have a lot of friends who are teachers. I’m glad that we have a significant amount of friends who are teachers and nurses compared to the number of friends we have who are venture capitalists and hedge fund speculators. I would have loved to have made this delivery to all our teacher friends out there, but my planning efforts failed me again and I just didn’t have the time. Maybe someday. Still, I remain grateful for the efforts of every teacher who have an incredibly hard job and who have to constantly battle the bureaucracy of politics and policies. We honor the goodness in your heart that finds the hope in every student and keeps that hope shining. That’s worth a piece of fudge for sure.
I think my future fudge making will include more batches of the nutty fudge variety. It’s just good. I never really understood why but after a few tastes, I don’t know why I haven’t been making it this way from the start. (Don’t worry Tom – I’ll still make the nut free fudge too). In truth, when I saw it was Nutty Fudge Day, I was kind of relieved because I knew it would be easy to make. Nonetheless, it came out great and gave me a new perspective on a food that I may have otherwise ignored. Best of all however, I was able to share it with some teachers. A little fudge isn’t going to make a teacher’s day significantly better, but hopefully it brought them a moment of sweet joy in the midst of of their day. They deserve those little moments of smiles and they deserve our appreciation, so I’m glad I could include them in today’s holiday. It takes a village, but sometimes we have to stop and thank the villagers. And maybe give them some nutty fudge too.
Next up: National Apple Pie Day