Food on Friday – Fudge

I love this picture of my Grandmother Eveline Coates Hoskins. Mom said that this picture must have been taken when Eveline was attending Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls, Iowa. I’m guessing that she and her friend, Alice Tingle (her future sister-in-law), made a batch of fudge and then took pictures of each other licking the pan. Alice was obviously the better photographer.

Grandma didn’t make fudge very often, but I do have one memory associated with her fudge. I lost my first tooth while “licking” the fudge pan Grandma had handed me – it came out right on the spoon.  What a great way to loose a tooth – in chocolate! Much better than string and a doorknob!

I don’t have Eveline’s fudge recipe, so I looked on the Internet for a recipe in use around 1918. Legend has it that fudge originated on the Vassar college campus. This from the Vassar College page titled “Vassar Myths and Legends”:

Vassar Student Invents Fudge

A Vassar student from the 1890s with a sweet tooth is rumored to have invented this chocolatey confection. The Office of Media Relations says this is a fable, while Historian Elizabeth Daniels avers it is the truth. The real truth probably lies in between these two answers–Emelyn Battersby Hartridge ’92 made fudge for the senior class auction, but attributed the recipe to a classmate’s cousin. Still, her letter discussing the auction is the first instance of documentation for the existence of this sweet treat.

Apparently, making fudge became very popular on the campuses of women’s colleges. I found a copy of Choice Recipes here:  Michigan State University Libraries. This pamphlet was published in 1913 by the makers of Bakers Chocolate and contains fudge recipes attributed to Vassar, Smith, and Wellesley colleges. 

My mom sometimes used the following recipe and we often make it at Christmas. It doesn’t have the texture of cooked fudge and needs to be refrigerated, but it is “mighty quick” and yummy!

Might Quick Perfect Fudge

2 lb. package confectioner’s sugar

1 cup cocoa
1 cup butter or margarine
½ cup milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 ½ cup chopped nuts

Mix together the sugar and cocoa in large bowl.  Melt the butter and add to the milk and vanilla.  Mix all ingredients together a quickly as possible (including nuts).  Place into a greased 2-quart oblong dish.  Chill about 1 hour.  Yields about 60 one-inch pieces.

Food on Friday: Breakfast of Champions

The first time I visited my new Hockensmith (step)grandparents (Glenn and Viola), breakfast delivered a bit of a shock and a delight. Sure, I’d been allowed sugar at breakfast in the form of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes or Post Alphabits cereal or just plain old sugar on the unsweetened stuff, but never before had I witnessed what passed as breakfast on the Hockensmith farm.

There sat Grandpa and his sons, with serving-dish-size bowls and tablespoons at their places. The first thing that went into the bowl wasn’t unusual – just some bran flakes or Post Toasties. It was the next item that drew my attention – a slice of chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting. A BIG piece of chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting. A little milk and they were set. Breakfast was on.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to ruin a good piece of chocolate cake by mixng it up with milk and bran flakes. And I was pretty sure Mom wouldn’t go for a breakfast of chocolate cake solo. So I opted for cereal the usual way and hoped I’d get some of that chocolate cake later.

I remember a time when Mom made it her mission to find the best chocolate cake recipe. In my mind, I have associated this memory with Viola’s chocolate cakes – that mom went on this quest to find a cake that dad(Jim) liked as well as his mother’s – but that may just be a figment of my imagination. What I feel certain I remember is this:

Mom baked a chocolate cake nearly every week, trying out recipe after recipe. We had red velvet, devil’s food, cake made with buttermilk, cake made with mayonnaise, and cake made with pickle juice. I’m not kidding. I remember a cake made with pickle juice.  It had a little tangy taste to it. In the end, it didn’t make the cut as THE chocolate cake recipe. In fact, I don’t know what cake recipe did earn that distinction. At some point, clothes were getting tight and the numbers on the scale were getting higher and mom was forced to abandon the weekly search for the perfect chocolate cake.

I’ve done a little internet search and cannot find a recipe for chocolate cake that uses pickle juice. I wonder why?

Instead, I offer you this recipe for chocolate cake made with mayonnaise from Best Recipes of the Great Food Companies. The story behind the cake as told in the cookbook: “In 1937 the Hellmann’s Company managers learned that Mrs. Paul Price, wife of a sales distributor, had created an astonishingly rich cake. The deep, dark chocolate flavor and moist texture were attributed to the addition of an unconventional ingredient: mayonnaise.”

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Makes one 9-inch layer cake

2 cups unsifted flour                                                   1 2/3 cups sugar
or 2 1/4 cups unsifted cake flour                                1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa                                       1 cup mayonnaise
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda                                      1 1/3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bottoms of two 9-by-1 1/2-inch round cake pans. In medium bowl, stir flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside. In large bowl with mixer at high speed, beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla, scraping bowl occasionally, 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in mayonnaise until blended. Add flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with water, beginning and ending with flour. Pour into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove; cool completely on racks. Frost as desired.

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* Does anyone have Viola’s chocolate cake recipe? Any of her other recipes?
* Please share a breakfast story!

Ice Cream Did Not Make It Better!


In front of Grandma and Grandpa Hoskins’ house

One of the things I have in common with my Grandmother Eveline is that we both got sick a lot during our first year of school. Eveline wrote in her school paper “Autobiography” that if it were not for her teacher spending extra time with her, she would have had to repeat the grade.

Eveline didn’t say what illnesses put her to bed, but for me, it was numerous upper respiratory infections which inevitably led to ear infections. Vicks Vapo-Rub and St. Joseph’s baby aspirin were always on hand to ease my symptoms. The ear infections were the worst. I remember lying on Eveline’s couch, holding my hand over my ear and crying because of the pain. She would warm olive oil and use a dropper to put the oil in my ear. It did help to soothe the pain, but it would take several miserable days for the pain to go away.

In the 1950s, the treatment for frequent illnesses like mine was to remove your tonsils. Ether was the anesthetic of choice. I have no fond memories attached to this experience. Here’s how I remember it….

We went for a drive and ended up at the hospital. We rode an elevator. I learned that I was there for something more than a joy ride. I was promised ice cream. I was worried, but looked forward to the ice cream with great anticipation.

My next memory is in the operating room, lying on my back. People wearing masks hovered over me and covered my nose and mouth with something that smelled awful. I was told to count to ten. I couldn’t move my arms or legs and couldn’t get away. I turned my head back and forth to get away from that awful thing covering my face. I tried holding my breath. I struggled and struggled. I was terrified.

Another girl and I had been taken to the operating room at the same time. My mom became concerned when the other girl came out of surgery and I didn’t. After what seemed to my mom like a long time, I was finally brought to the recovery room. The problem, of course, was that I had fought the anesthesia, delaying my surgery.

Awake and in my hospital room, my reward arrived – a bowl of vanilla ice cream! I dug in and took my first bite – and with that first bite I knew that I had been deceived. My throat hurt. It was hard to swallow. The ice cream tasted like blood. I had consoled myself with the promise of ice cream. It had been a big lie. No one had told me that I wouldn’t be able to actually enjoy the ice cream.

The only good thing that happened as a result of my surgery was that my grandmother didn’t make me eat the crusts of my bread for the next couple of weeks.

Several years ago, I had to have a root canal. The doctor and his assistant began to work over my face, putting blocks and shields and whatever inside and over my mouth. After a few minutes, the doctor stopped working and kindly said that we should do this on another day and that he would prescribe something to help me relax. He had seen the panic in my eyes. It was at that moment that I realized the genesis of my fears. I was right back in that operating room. Masks. People hovering over my face, putting things into and over my mouth. How could I escape???

My five-year-old self had been reliving those minutes of terror for fifty years, and I didn’t realize it until my experience with the root canal.

Now I got it….the claustrophobia….the panicky need to know that there is an easy escape….the fear of not being able to breathe….why darkness sometimes closes in on me…

I did a quick search to see if anyone else ties their anxieties to having a tonsillectomy or if I’m just weird. Sure enough, I am not alone. There was even an anesthesiologist who related his panic attack in an elevator to his tonsillectomy. Here are a few quotes:

The strong smell of ether frightens many patients…
…reassures the patient that they are not being suffocated
…there may be some struggling…
the patient’s eyes were covered with gauze and a rubber protector while the anesthetist dripped ether over the mask……
At four years of age she had experienced hospital trauma, when she was held down by doctors and nurses during a tonsillectomy with ether anesthesia…
I can still smell the rubber mask and the sickly smell of the ether. I feel nauseated as I type this, my heart starts pounding, my hands are shaking…


So now I look back and I understand how some really innocuous things have made me panic and why anxiety is so close to the surface of my emotions.

I still prefer stairs over elevators and it’s doubtful that I will ever go on a cruise….. you can’t just walk away from a boat in the middle of the ocean. It’s going to be difficult to manage a flight to Europe, even though it’s something I really want to do. But at least I know why.

I’m glad the medical profession has made some progress since my childhood. My kids got taken back to the operating room in a little red wagon pulled by a purple kangaroo!