Retro Recipe and Reminiscence

On a random Thursday night this past December, I wondered if we could possibly experience a touch of Christmas morning joy–the kind you feel as a child. Mother had an impromptu pre-Christmas dinner. Only five of us could make it–my sister Jennifer, my niece Libby, Mother and her husband Gene, and me.

We had oyster stew and chocolate fudge. Mother makes the best fudge. She’s been making it since we were little.

After we ate, we played beauty parlor, and Mother braided Libby’s hair. Libby looks so much like my sister, I pretended it was 40 years ago .


And then Mother said, “I got y’all a little something to open. Don’t get too excited. It’s not much.”

Beautiful socks!

We gathered in a tight knot, shoulders touching, and took pictures of our hands. I have no idea why. Sometimes mothers and daughters and sisters do the silliest things. 🙂

I’ll never forget what happened next. It’s as if the Lord Himself tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Pay attention.”

This is the second picture of our hands. When Mother saw the first one she said, “My hands look terrible, like chicken claws.” She hid her swollen thumb joints. She has rheumatoid arthritis.

But I hadn’t noticed her joints.

Instead, I saw the circle of our lives and love.

I thought about time passing–went back to my childhood.

To Mother’s creativity–her hands. How her fingers flew over her typewriter. Back then, she painted. I could see her doodling on sketch pads and setting the supper table pretty each night. I remembered how fast she could fold a stack of towels, change a baby’s diapers, and make a pitcher of tea.

All grown up now, I hadn’t expected that under-the-Christmas-tree feeling to find me.

What brought it?

I know it began with gratitude.

Could I reproduce it?

The meal was simple. Mother’s fudge recipe hadn’t changed in 50 years.

Maybe joy-moments can’t be orchestrated, but that doesn’t mean we don’t watch for them.

Anticipate them.

Welcome them.

They’re unexpected gifts from God.

Mother’s Fudge–Gluten-free if you use GF vanilla

This recipe is easier is more predictable with a candy thermometer, but Mother doesn’t use one.

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups milk

2/3 cup cocoa

dash of salt

1/2 stick butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 heaping cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Butter an 8 or 9 inch square pan.

Using a heavy 6-quart pot and a wooden spoon, stir everything except butter, vanilla, and nuts on medium heat. Keep stirring until it comes to a full boil.

Then stop stirring but let the mixture continue boiling until it comes to 234 degrees on a candy thermometer, which is a “soft ball” stage.

(If you aren’t using a thermometer, begin doing the “soft ball” test after about 10 minutes of boiling. To perform soft ball test: put a few drops of the mixture into a cup of cold water. When fudge is finished cooking, it will form a soft ball in the water. If you touch the fudge in the water, it will feel formed. It won’t fall apart in the water. Your test ball will flatten when you remove it from the water.)

At the “soft ball” stage, remove fudge from heat.

Add butter and vanilla but don’t stir.

Let fudge sit and cool until it reaches 110 degrees, lukewarm. (If you aren’t using a candy thermometer, this can take about 2 – 1/2 hours.)

Beat fudge until it starts to looks less glossy and gets thicker–usually about 7 minutes.

Then quickly add nuts and pour into buttered pan. Let it cool before cutting.

Slice into small pieces. The fudge can be frozen and makes wonderful Christmas gifts.