Friday, December 19, 2008

Letter to my Grandmother

My Grandma, Valeria McDougall passed away when I was about 4 years old..and I never got to know her. However I feel like i have fond memories of her, from the stories that I have been told. She mothered 8 children-- 5 boys (2 of them twins), and 3 girls, she was a teacher, and kept up the household of a farm. She was just as much of a dedicated, hardworking, metitculous clean-freak as my mother (mom, this is a compliment--I am so glad to have inherited your great jeans); and the BEST baker in town. I have heard endless nostalgia about how wonderful her baking was .... so last night -- I connected with her. As this blog has been is about my story of Ryan and I..but since Ryan can't see it yet (the wedding dress photos are stricly OFF LIMITS), I am also talking about my journey to becoming that cute, domesticated :

Dear Grandma Valeria,

I hope you can take a break from scrubbing the floors of heaven to read this--for I KNOW heaven has taught you of the technology of computers. Last night, my fiance Ryan (who is a wonderful, intelligent, goal-oriented, catholic young man -- since you haven't met him...) was studying away in stress for his last final exam. I wanted to cheer him up by making him Fudge, one of his FAVORITE holiday treats. So I went to your website which your daughter Barb has generously made for the family so we can learn your recipes.

Now, I love to cook--and I think over the past year I have become pretty darn good at it. Therefore, my assumption is that I can tackle your God-sent recipes. But...just to be safe-I set out to make your "no-fail fudge". No fail..can't screw it up...totally what I thought.

Now...your recipe says to stir the sugar, evaporated milk, and until at a soft ball stage. My question is: what is this "soft ball stage" you speak of, Grandma?! I first stirred, and watched everything blend together and a very pleasant sweet smell fillled the WHOLE house (Ryan was excited). I continued to stir, as things began to bubble, and thicken up...things were still smelling nice and sweet. (Ryan is still excited and feeling pleasant) 7 minutes of stirring has gone by, and the nice "tan/offwhite" color has now turned into a bubbly MAGMA of brownish liquid. The house now smells like the combination of a barbeque grill + heathe candy....not nice. (Ryan was suddenly questionable of the once "good" smells".). I then retire my stirring, and pour in the chocolate chips and marshmallows. The mixture immediately becomes chunky, almost like gravel. I, still optimistic, pour it into the pan. At this point--it is smell like char-broiled Fudge..and it is looking like it would actually cut one's mouth if eaten..................I failed.

So, I tried my 1st "Grandma Val" recipe, and failed miserably. Ryan said it might turn out okay "rocky road" ?! ...but I think he was jsut trying to make me feel better. But i just want to say I am sad, devastated, and disappointed in myself. However, As I was cooking this fudge, and stirring for 15 minutes...I felt so connected to you. I tried imagining myself in your an old house in the 1960's, stirring away for 20 minutes, 8 children running around, husband out in the field--what a task, what a life!

Although i failed in the actual fudge-making, as my future mother in law, Lora said "If you fail once, try, try again...especially if you bring some extra to your future in-law's for Christmas".. I am going to try try again....but maybe a different recipe with more detailed instructions? Because the experience of attempting your creations made me grow the utmost respect for the family in which I was brought up in. Baking Christmas candy was something I ACHED to help my mom with as a child...and now I am doing it on my own--and it made me realize that I am growing up, and there's a lot of slip-ups that occur...but are learning experiences make it worth-while

I love you Grandma..and I will continue to strive for your excellence of cooking.... Merry Christmas.


Lora Nastase said...

Simply beautiful, Abby.

Lisa D said...

Good for you for trying!! :P You just need to buy a candy thermometer. There will be an area on the thermometer that says 'hard ball' / 'soft ball', etc. :)

Don't worry, I've been in your shoes before. I failed miserably at making mom's anis recipe a few Christmases ago. Never could get it to the right stage on the therometer - called mom about a million times. Wouldn't give up, though, so I poured it into the pan. It was AWFUL. Brooke still teases me about it & asks every year if I could make it again since it was 'so' delicious!

Try again, you'll get it! :)

Julie said...

I also tried a recipe (Mary Ann Cookies) off the website which stated "medium ball stage" for the frosting. I can relate to your situation. I totally failed. I am going to buy a candy therometer tonight and try again. If not your mom said she would help me on Christmas eve. :) Good Luck if you try again.

Anonymous said...

Abby, I loved your letter to your Grandma. A soft ball stage in candy making is when a few drops of fudge is dropped into a cup of cold water. If the liquid comes together as in a "soft ball" then you continue to the next directions. (finished cooking, usually) You may have to try this 2, 3 or 4 times. Each time you throw away the cup of water with fudge drops in it and start all over with another cup of cole water. I know you will succeed. By the way is your nick name Abby or Abbie? Love to you both, Granny in Omaha