I do not have a single memory from childhood that doesn’t glow around the edges with the knowledge of my father’s love for me. As the ultimate Daddy’s Little Girl, there were few projects he undertook without my standing off to the side waiting to help out, and cooking proved no exception to this rule. In the interest of safety, I was usually assigned menial tasks or acted as a “Fetcher, 1st Class,” and this was doubly the case on the nights when my dad would make the Fantasy Fudge recipe printed on the back of jars of Kraft marshmallow cream.
Nobody makes fudge like my dad, and on the fudge nights from my childhood, as dad communed with the sugar, butter, and condensed milk at the stove, half of my job was to stay as far away from the molten liquid as possible while gathering and opening a package of chocolate chips, marshmallow cream, and vanilla. However, the other part of the job was the best – I had to butter the fudge plate.
I loved to take a fresh stick of butter, peel off the wrapper, and rub the butter all over the American Blue Willow dish we always poured the fudge into after Dad stirred in the remaining ingredients. When we peeled off a piece of fresh fudge from this platter while it was still warm, the taste of the butter against the chocolaty goodness of the fudge was a study in contrasts a master painter would die to appreciate. I savored being a part of this sweet moment when I was alone or when my mother or brothers would help out as we all waited to scoop out the fudge shavings leftover in the pan while the fudge in the platter solidified just a little bit more.
As the years went by and I got older, went to high school, graduated high school, and got married, my role in the process remained the same until one day my Dad called to tell me he and mom were getting a divorce. A few months later, there was another call, and Dad asked if there was anything I wanted him to get for me from the household effects. I only asked for one thing – the fudge plate.
Even as an adult with my own family unit, the pain of forever losing the cohesive family nucleus I grew up in still burns my heart, but at least I have a balm. I can turn on the stove; I can make fudge; and I can rub butter across the fudge plate and find solace in the moments that were.
Note: The picture at left is not our fudge plate, but it is a similar Blue Willow pattern.