It’s funny how, despite my multiple heritages, I claim certain aspects more. For example – I claim my Polish heritage more than anything else. But when asked where I’m from in the States, I say the South nine times out of ten.
It is true, I am from the South. I was born in Virginia and now live in North Carolina. But for my more formative years (ages 4 – 18) I lived in New York. I guess my nomadic lifestyle has allowed me to claim the best of either of the worlds.
Easter is the perfect example of my picking and choosing of my heritages. When it comes to Easter, I think of two things: chocolate and ham. Those years I was a vegetarian, I would think: chocolate and yam. Almost ham, but not quite. It’s a joke, roll with it.
As far as the foods though, I claim Southern pride when it comes to chocolate. My grandma’s fudge is pride-worthy. And with ham, or yams for that matter, I go with my Northern grandma and her honied ham and candied yams.
During my last visit to Gretna, Virginia – the home of my dad’s grandparents – I found my grandma’s secret for her devilish fudge: A cookbook from 1939 entitled: The Southern Cook Book of Fine Old Dixie Recipes (a cook book she’s had since they were married.)
This cookbook is a rare find: wooden panels serve as the cover, red yarn as the bindings and pages that don’t adhere to consecutive numbering (page 46 is followed by the index, the title page preceded by page 8).
In addition to the lyrics from antebellum South that border on racist (“Carry dat load on your head, De Lord will bless your good corn bread,” “I’s got a girl in Afriky, She’s az purty az can be”) and recipes that make 1200 gallons of Burgoo, I found my grandma’s recipe for fudge on page 46 (found at the front of the book).
I remember this fudge following most large Easter feasts. After my grandma had spent over three days in the kitchen preparing and three hours at the table stuffing us full of meats, green beans, biscuits, onions, beets, potatoes, yams, and okra, she would give us about five minutes before she brought out this fudge and talk of dessert.
We would hesitate for a little while, but then shortly realize that we were going to feel this uncomfortably full no matter if we ate the fudge, chocolate pie, and apple cobbler now or in an hour. So we ate like kings for four hours and slowly waddled out of the kitchen to the living room where granddad would find his way to the same brown chair. He would say something like “Now I’m just going to let my eyes have a rest for a second.” The next thing we would hear from him would be a loud snore, waking himself back up again.
Now east candy is good. Milk chocolates wrapped in colored aluminum foil in shapes of rabbits, chickens or eggs. But let’s face it – that might look nice, but Southern fudge sates anyone’s craving for chocolate so much better.
Aunt Sarah’s Fudge
It might be called “Aunt Sarah’s Fudge,” but I call it grandma’s.
2 cups sugar
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup table cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cook ingredients together without stirring until they for a soft ball when dropped in water. Beat until creamy. Add chopped nuts and vanilla. Pour on a buttered dish and cut in one-inch squares when cool.
And for fun, the ingredient list for the Kentucky Burgoo:
600 pounds lean soup meat (no fat, no bones)
200 pounds fat hens
2000 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
200 pounds onions
5 bushels of cabbage, chopped
60 ten-pound cans of tomatoes
24 ten-pound cans puree of tomatoes
24 ten-pound cans of carrots
18 ten-pound cans of corn
Red pepper and salt to taste
Season with Worcestershire, Tabasco or A#1 Sauce.