Peanut butter, milk and sugar were all the ingredients Daddy needed to make homemade fudge. Dinner was over. The dishes were done. Pajamas on and teeth brushed. We were ready for bed. But then…we would hear Daddy puttering around in the kitchen, opening and closing the cabinet doors and drawers, asking Mother for the whereabouts of the objects of his quest. He was looking for a bowl, a spoon, a pot, a pan, waxed paper and a reason to satisfy his sweet tooth. He rummaged through more cabinets finding the peanut butter and sugar. He retrieved the milk from the refrigerator and with pot and spoon in hand; he was geared up to prepare peanut butter fudge.
From the living room, we heard the quiet metallic sound of a pot being placed on top of the stove and patiently waited for the sweet treat we knew would follow. Unlike most men of that era, Daddy liked to cook and it wasn’t unusual to find him in the kitchen with Mother preparing a meal or his favorite bedtime snack, which was fudge. When there was no cocoa or peanut butter to be found, he made plain old vanilla fudge, which was equally delicious. He started by melting the butter or peanut butter, and once softened and almost liquefied; he added copious amounts of sugar. Remember-sweet tooth!
The two ingredients merged into one as the crystals dissolved from the heat of the melting butter and through the action of the continuous stirring. Burned sugar and peanut butter on the bottom of a pan was no fun to clean, so careful attention to continuous stirring was required. The sweet combination of the ingredients permeated the entire house and with anticipation we waited for our bedtime treat.
Waxed paper was a kitchen staple in our house and made the perfect surface on which to pour the hot mixture. Daddy tore the measured piece of paper from its cardboard container and placed it in the pan he selected to house the fudge. When sufficiently cooked and thickened, he poured the mixture onto the waxed paper and we eagerly waited for it to harden and cool. If we were really hungry for that late night sweet treat, he put the fudge in the refrigerator for ten or fifteen minutes to speed up the hardening process. Once hardened, he pulled the wax paper out of the pan and placed the candy onto the table to slice into small pieces. We were allowed only one taste, but we went to bed satisfied, knowing that there would be more treats tomorrow. And of course, we were marched right back into the bathroom to brush our teeth again.
In winters because snow was a regular occurrence in Indiana, we were often treated to a different late night delight-a snowy delight-during the cold days of January. On those cold blustery nights when the snow was fresh and clean and his sweet tooth was begging to be satisfied, Daddy went outside to collect a pan of snow. He added the pure white, crystal powder to sugar and milk and somehow magically transformed the snow to ice cream, or snow cream as we called it. He added vanilla extract for flavor and if we had Hershey’s chocolate syrup in the house, the vanilla snow cream would be converted to chocolate snow cream with a squeeze and a few stirs. The icy taste of the natural, homemade treat was a sweet tooth’s dream come true.
This week I had the very last of my silver amalgams replaced with a crown. I thought about how much the procedure cost and what a pain it was to go to the dentist to have the procedure done. Then I thought about peanut butter fudge and snow cream and my father cooking in the kitchen all those years ago and I decided….that trip to the dentist wasn’t so very bad after all.