March 2, 2009

Foodie Origins: 1981 to Present (thanks for the inspiration Granny)

I love talking to my mom and dad about blogging. For Baby Boomers, my folks are pretty savvy when it comes to technology. They read my blog on a regular basis, suggest topics, offer to be guest bloggers and overall offer a critique that is nice to hear – it’s always refreshing to get some feedback from people who aren’t in my age group and obsessed with technology. My parents might not know what Twitter is, but they’ve probably heard about it. And although they don’t have a MySpace or Facebook accounts, they are well aware of what “social networking” is.

I bring this up because while describing Puff and Choux to my mom, I described this site as a “foodie” blog. She hadn’t heard the term “foodie” before, which honestly, shocked me a bit. As mentioned, my mom’s pretty hip – she is up to speed on current events and has a multitude of interests. She likes visiting farmers markets, attends chocolate tastings, knows about the two new cupcake bakeries to recently open up in Oklahoma City, but she still hadn’t heard the term “foodie.” I tried to describe to her what it meant, and I think through all my rambling she made sense of it, but this conversation got me to thinking about when I first realized I was a foodie.

I’ve always liked eating. I’ve never turned down an offer for dessert, and I’m always game to lick the bowl when someone is baking. But it wasn’t until I made a serious commitment to learning how to cook that my passion really took off. Luckily for me, I can pinpoint several of the major moments of my life down to the exact event where something changed and I started on a new course, whether I knew it at the time or not. My passion for food took place six months ago in the kitchen of my New York City apartment.

When I decided to teach myself how to cook, I knew I needed something easy. I had started off with some simple recipes, but none had been for sweets. My prior baking experience only involved boxed mixes (I cringe at the thought now), so I knew that baby steps were important. I remembered at some time, my mom had told me that my grandmother’s fudge recipe was simple, so I thought that would be a great place to start.

While I became increasingly excited about the prospect of learning a secret family recipe, I finally set aside a weekend day for my first fudge attempt. I called my mom and asked if she could e-mail the recipe, assuming it was written on some yellowed index card from years ago, now collecting dust somewhere in my parents’ house, just waiting for me to unleash the great taste discovered and crafted by my ancestors.

To say that I was shocked by my mother’s response is an understatement.

“I don’t need to send it to you. You can find the recipe on the back of the Kraft Marshmallow Fluff jar. Just go to any supermarket – they’ll have it,” she said.

Wait…what? The amazingly perfect fudge recipe my Granny made EVERY year for the holidays is not under lock and key in the family safe? The fudge that was the most important treat at Christmas from the time I was able to eat solid food until my Granny wasn’t healthy enough to cook anymore is available to the MASSES?!!??!?!?!? What the $@&$?!

I was disappointed. I thought I’d be carrying on a time honored tradition and all I was getting was a generic recipe that bazillions of people could get their hands on. However, I spent so much time building up the fudge that I thought I made as well make the damn recipe.

So, a quick trip to the grocery store in the West Village saw me with all my supplies. I followed the instructions that were indeed included on the back of the Kraft Marshmallow Fluff jar and twenty minutes later, the fudge was complete. I put it in the fridge to cool and harden over night and went to bed feeling less than satisfied. I wondered who else had made this exact same not top secret fudge tonight.

In the morning, I decided that I should go ahead and cut the generic chocolate slab into pieces. Why let it go to waste I thought. The homeless always parked out on Broadway would surely love a piece.

After cutting the block into neat, one inch squares, I took the smallest piece and thought that I might as well try it. If it stunk, I certainly wouldn’t even give it to the homeless – everyone deserves good chocolate.

The only way I can put into words what happened next is to ask if you, reader, have ever seen the movie Ratatouille. Yes, I mean the Disney movie. And yes, I love that film. Regardless of your feelings towards Disney or this particular piece of cinema, I need you to think of the scene where the food critic eats the ratatouille Little Chef prepared for him and he suddenly flashes back to having a skinned knee and broken bicycle. His mother sees that he is upset and dishes him up some of her freshly-made ratatouille, and after taking a bite, all is right in the world.

The moment my taste buds got a grip on that fudge, for a split second I remembered being at my Granny’s house at the age of four and looking up at her in the kitchen as she worked on preparing a Christmas spread (and boy, her Christmas parties were the best). I remember her telling me I could have a piece as long as I promised to finish my dinner later that evening, and after I ecstatically nodded yes, she gave me a piece of fudge to enjoy and for keeping her company in the kitchen.

As I stood there remembering, I started tearing up in the kitchen as the smell and taste of that fudge reminded me how much I loved my Granny and all the wonderful memories I have of her. I wish she was still alive today to see me pursuing a culinary career. I think she would be really proud that I'm charting my own course, much like she did, and not settling for what was handed to me simply because it was easy.

I think this is what it means to be a foodie – loving food and the memories wrapped up in different dishes and tastes. And for any of you looking to start memories with your friends and family, I’ll be featuring my Granny’s not-so-secret fudge as the Recipe of the Day tomorrow.


And said...

I'm loving this blog and really loving this story! Congratulations! I'm inspired to bake cupcakes tonight too...

Eastjewels said...

Mary this is an awesome post...can't wait to get your granny's fudge recipe...I still love fudge as much as I did back in the ole' days. I can remember your mom sending me fudge to school at thanks for that memory. I am posting a link to your blog on my blog...and you can post a link to my blog(s) if you want

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