What is fudge?
October 26th, 2011 by

How do you describe fudge? Yes, I do mean the ultra-sweet confection that sometimes has chocolate in it or sometimes has nuts or marshmellows or maple syrup. What is the texture of fudge? Sort of grainy but also silky smooth, soft but not too soft. Should it be firm or chewy or crumbly? Why is fudge so different from fudge sauce? Shouldn’t they be similar? How do you explain fudge to somebody who has never had it? In a country where you haven’t seen anything similar? How do you describe food without reference points? It’s like describing a dish as tasting like chicken to somebody who has been vegetarian their whole life, something is lost in the translation.

This situation actually occurred in class the other day, during a conversation on caramels, my professor brought up fudge as an example of a crystallized confection, but then left the explanation of what fudge is to me as the token American. I was stumped. Not only was my vocabulary for the exercise lacking, but I didn’t have a clear idea of what makes fudge, fudge. It just is fudge. Of course this lack of words doesn’t mean that I don’t distinguish good from inferior fudge. Eventually it was decided that I should just make some over the weekend and bring it in so that I could stop rambling in broken Spanish and my follow students could decide for themselves what fudge means for themselves.

Life here isn’t really that hard: we eat many of the same foods and the kitchen staples are very similar; still regional specialties are very intriguing.  I find it fascinating, how even simple conversations with my German roommate about how we eat oatmeal or what our families eat at holidays can morph into larger discussions that show the disparities between our food traditions. Or for another example, in class the other day I was informed that one of the defining characteristics of brownies is the walnuts, and that blondies are brownies made with white chocolate instead of dark. As far as my sense of Americana goes these statements are factually untrue. I mean I know some Americans do like to ruin a perfectly good brownie with walnuts but the walnuts are not what makes it a brownie. I love American food and especially old-fashioned American desserts. These are the foods about which I am culturally aware, but there are so many amazing regional foods of which I know nothing, like my roommate’s beloved chocolate kuchen or Spanish paella. It is to expand my cultural horizons that I am in Spain. There is a whole world of old-fashioned European desserts to be explored and disseminated, and I am very excited to learn about them.

So what is fudge? I believe it is an American confection made with crystallized, cooked sugar and usually chocolate or some other thick substance that provides body and texture. However, when I brought my fudge to class the instructor commented that it was not grainy enough to be fudge. Why would I want grainy fudge?

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