HOT FUDGE SAUCE

If I close my eyes, I can see the almond color refrigerator. I think it was a side by side, but I can’t imagine it was in the late seventies. Like soldiers, there they stood at full attention, a line up of homemade frozen ice cream parfaits layered with homemade vanilla ice cream and homemade hot fudge sauce. They started and ended with the darkest of brown chocolate sauce waiting to be consumed by my grandfather or someone other than my diabetic grandmother who made them for “us.”

My visits to my grandmother’s house, (my mother’s mother who we called Kitsie) from the time she and my grandfather lived on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston, Mass to her basement apartment in Newton were some of the best memories of my young life. I was so fortunate to have a loving, kind relationship and a lengthy one with both sets of my grandparents. I have written about them many times and the positive influence they have had in my life. My grandparents still have this influence in me even though only one of the four of them is still alive.

My grandmother’s voices are in my head in my daily life especially when I am in the kitchen. From the type of sponge I use to wash dishes (Dobie, unless our friend Kalman comes for a visit from Israel or I go there, then he brings these amazing silver toned scrubbers) the way I clean as I go, wiping counter tops down, washing the dishes so there isn’t a big mess as I prepare my meal. The way I grocery shop driving to a variety of little stores to buy specific things, Persimmon Provision in Barrington for meat, Fruitland or Decastros for my fruits and vegetables, Green Grocer for the organic staples; Venda Ravioli for Italian goodness and so on; this is all when I have the time to do this. When it comes to food, I usually make the time because my grandmother taught me that food is love and love is worth the drive. When I don’t have the time to drive everywhere, I go to Whole Foods, the little one on the East Side, but my preference is always the small privately owned stores where I can talk to Champ, the butcher or Harold the fruit guy and find out about their kids and their lives. Like her mother, my mother did this too and though I dreaded the outings when I was a child, my memories of the experience are really special. Little did I know that these shopping excursions would be forming my foundation in the kitchen and my love to cook.

My aunt Kiley and I used to make fun of all of the driving to these small stores my grandmother would do. But like most traits we laughed about in our youth, I find myself mirroring many of the same ones in my fifties. This feels like I am honoring my grandmother and it comforts me.

Kitsie taught herself to cook as she was the generation that witnessed the first cooking show of the mother of all cooking shows, Julia Child. There was never a stick of margarine in the house, never processed food. Kitsie’s nemesis was sweets. She was always watching her blood sugar on one hand and cooking elaborate sugar laden desserts with the other.

Like a stunning bottle of red wine on a perfect cool fall evening, sometimes Kitsie’s desserts cannot be replicated. This is likely because of the experience surrounding the dessert, the smell of her house, the conversations in the kitchen, and the dishes they were served in. She always made chocolate chip cookies and put them in the freezer. Not only can I taste the frozen cookie as I think about them, I can see my entire being standing in the kitchen, opening the freezer door, reaching into it and pulling one out. I can almost smell Kitsie’s kitchen and like the movie, Back to the Future, I am transported back in time and it feels lovely and safe.

Grandmothers have this magical force especially when they are the good kinds of grandmothers. Many of my close friends have really spectacular loving relationships with their mothers, but didn’t know their grandmothers on that level. I was the opposite and though the pain of not having that type of depth of a relationship with my own mother, my grandparents on both sides served up a plate of delicious love and divine intervention with their examples and their hearts. Food was one of those ways. The action of the recipe and the preparation rather than the voice of it became the ripple effect in its omnipresent force in my life. It still is every time I pull out the hand typed HOT FUDGE SAUCE recipe that Kitsie created on one of about two hundred index cards for my twenty-first birthday because I asked for them. I have two full boxes of these vary worn cards and they all smell like butter, aka my grandmother’s kitchen.

Every time I whip up a batch of the gritty deep chocolate recipe and pass on a jarful to my friends, I pass on her torch, honoring how much she was a great example to me without even trying. I also whole-heartedly share the recipe because everyone needs a batch of homemade hot fudge sauce every once in a while.

Though this recipe is called Chocolate Sauce, i have always referred to it as Hot Fudge Sauce and even though this says margarine, it is a lie, Kitsie never used it. Her recipes assumed lots, like mixing things and temperatures and knowing that bitter chocolate means bitter sweet chocolate. They were also a bit contradictory: “stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil” and the ending with “Don not let it boil.” Translation? Cook over low heat and just cook it until it smells delicious and thickens. 1 square bittersweet melted with 1/4 cup butter, 1 and 1/4 cups of cocoa, 3/4 cups sugar, 1/2 cup evaporated milk. (you know the old school kind in the can.) This freezes perfectly and it also doubles and triples easily.
The box of recipes Kitsie hand typed for me before computers, spell check and backspacing; and all of the ingredients except for the stick of butter because I realized that I am out. If you use the Ghirardelli, it is 2 squares not one since their squares are much thinner than the old fashioned Bakers brand. Carnation makes smaller cans which serve this recipe well if you are only making one batch, this can makes 2 1/2 batches. I usually keep all of this on hand to whip up a batch at the blink of an eye.
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