Friday, September 10, 2010

Fudge for Breakfast

My mother used to make the best fudge—real fudge, not that soft stuff. Her fudge had a sturdy consistency, a "sheer factor." She would cool the cooked chocolate mixture down to almost room temperature, letting the butter melt and just sit still, and then beat it with a wooden spoon. At a certain point, the mixture would begin to lose its shininess, take on a sort of matte sheen, and get really hard to stir. This was the critical moment of truth—getting it into a pan and smoothed over before it completely seized up. With success, sighs of relief. With failure, oh, well, we could always mix the bits into ice cream.

My mother was a world-class hostess all her married life. In 1957, entertaining wasn’t anything like today. A cocktail party meant pretty dresses, dancing, Nat King Cole, and liquor. No girlie cocktails for my mother and father; they preferred Scotch, martinis, and after dinner Drambuie. There was smoking, laughter, and a high time was had by all.

Sometimes my father would flambé something. Once he put on a wonderful performance for a sleepover with my girlfriends. Flaming peaches, I think. It was awesome. I was the envy of the sixth grade.

Anyway, back to fudge . . . I was always an early riser, but on Sunday morning after a cocktail party, it was like an archeological expedition. I would wander downstairs, where the normally tidy living and dining room were a strange landscape. There would be the evidence of the bacchanalia. These clues were always enticing. Glasses containing strange olives, cigarette butts tipped with vibrant colors, my parents’ party shoes, records naked on the hifi. The whiff of foreign tobacco. And, if fate was smiling on me, there would be some fudge left over.

Fudge for breakfast had to be one of the most forbidden of pleasures. At 6:30 on a Sunday morning, there was no chance that anybody would catch me. I could put on my mother’s shoes, find a suitably untouched cigarette butt, grab some fudge, and pretend to party. I feel very fond of that girl as I watch her trying to act like a grownup.

By church time, the house looked almost normal.

Sometimes I think of those times and it seems like “before.” Just around the corner was so much national pain and strife, and a whole generation of baby boomers was about to take the stage. But just then, all that was unimaginable.

It was a mid-century childhood. And there was fudge.

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