Was it Christmas 1984? Was that the year I finally got up the nerve to make Mrs. Greene’s fudge? Turned out that statement should read: “Was that the year I finally got up the nerve to attempt to make Mrs. Greene’s fudge?”
At the time I truly thought I was going to make Mrs. Greene’s fudge. Why would I not? I had her recipe on the counter in front of me, the ingredients and instructions in her firm, slanted handwriting.
I had sent a note to her at her home in Newington where she and her husband, Jim, had retired after selling their bungalow on Florence Street. The youngest of their four children, Jimmy and Frannie, hung out with the rest of us kids who lived on the street. We were together constantly. Walked back and forth to elementary school together, played hardball on the street, sat together during Saturday afternoon matinees and, in the fall, once the clocks went back to eastern standard time, rang doorbells and ran.
The reason I wrote Mrs. Greene was because it had been a good 20 years or so since I’d tasted her fudge. It wasn’t the soft gooey kind of fudge your teeth stuck into but rather one you could shave bits with your two front ones and have it slowly melt in your mouth. Mrs. Greene’s fudge was light brown in color, grainy and hard with a hint of brown sugar. If we kids suspected she was making a batch we would be in the Greene’s backyard shooting baskets at the net attached to the old garage hoping Mrs. Greene would call out from the back door to tell us the fudge was ready.
In the letter I wrote Mrs. Greene, I told her that I’d spent the years searching church fairs and bazaars, candy shops and other people’s kitchens for her fudge. My three children knew about her fudge and would ask from time to time why I never made it if it was so wonderful. I tried to appease them with Peg Bracken’s Chocolate Mousse recipe, gleaned from her “I Hate to Cook Cookbook,” and one that has since become the traditional Christmas dessert they grew up with.
Readers may be questioning why I didn’t make other fudge recipes hoping to hit on one close to Mrs. Greene’s. Oh, but I did: Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge; Nutty Mallow Fudge; Three-Minute Fudge, Easy Cocoa Fudge, Soldier’s Fudge, Fudge Orleans, and on and on and on.
When Mrs. Greene sent me the recipe, I was thrilled thinking that finally I would duplicate what I had sought for so long. That first Christmas, I gathered all the ingredients and did exactly as she instructed. But the fudge never set. Even two days later it was still dark brown and glossy and had the consistency of a thick chocolate sauce. I put the recipe away figuring I’d give it another try at a less hectic time of year. As it is with life, best laid plans ...
A few Christmases later I decided to give Mrs. Greene’s recipe another go. By this time, she had passed away and, as I assembled the ingredients my thoughts went back to the old neighborhood and how eagerly we kids anticipated her fudge. I read the directions twice hoping the recipe would work this time. In my haste previously I hadn’t noticed Mrs. Greene had added, “Good Luck” in her firm, slanted handwriting. What did she mean by that?
Later that day, my daughter came into the kitchen and asked, “What’s this?” when she saw the mixture cooling in the pan on the counter.
“It’s Mrs. Greene’s fudge,” I said.
“How come it’s so watery?”
I told her that by morning it would be a lighter brown color, grainy with a hint of brown sugar and cut into squares that would be hard enough to shave bits off with her front teeth and savor the flavor as it slowly melted in her mouth.
Yet, sadly I knew that would not be so.