Elizabeth Naranjo's "Good Enough" Fudge

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Ah, the holidays. Christmas is all about love, sharing, sweetness and light -- and keeping the antacids handy. In keeping with the spirit of the season, Chow Bella presents "Eating Christmas," in which some of our favorite writers nosh on the real lessons we learn this time of year. Today, Elizabeth Naranjo learns the real meaning of fudge Christmas.

One holiday season, I stumbled across an inspiring magazine article. The glossy photo showed a cashmere-draped, model-thin mother beaming at her husband while he trimmed the Christmas tree. All of the ornaments were homemade. By the tree sat a curly headed toddler, proudly clutching her crooked tinfoil star. What children treasure most about the holidays, this article proclaimed, are unique family traditions.

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Suddenly, oodles of presents under the tree wasn't enough. My daughter needed a unique tradition. I thought back to my childhood. Was there anything that stood out? A particular book my mother read every Christmas Eve, pillow fights on Christmas morning, hot chocolate with presents? And then I remembered.

Fantasy Fudge. We'd made it every winter, using the recipe on that blue-capped, wide-hipped marshmallow crème jar. I would sit on the counter, strategically positioned by the chocolate chips, while my mother measured out sugar and margarine. She poured in a can of milk and the kitchen was filled with the quiet sounds of bubbling and stirring. I dumped the remaining chocolate chips into the pot, and my mother watched carefully as I stirred with a big, wooden spoon. Chocolate melted and swirled; the luxurious aroma made my mouth water. When it was time to add the marshmallow crème, my mother held the jar while I slid a butter knife inside and twisted out a thick glob. I plopped it into the mixture and stirred until my arms ached. My mother finished and while we waited for the fudge to cool, I licked the spoon.

This is the tradition I decided to recreate with Abigail. Christmas was a week away, but first we were taking a snowy vacation up north; we could have some fudge to take with us. I ceremoniously tied an apron on my daughter and propped her next to the chocolate chips. Abigail stirred in the marshmallow crème and licked the spoon while I finished mixing (how did my mother make this look so effortless?). I poured the thick silky chocolate into a pan, and we bundled up in the family room to watch The Polar Express while the fudge cooled.

By the end of the movie, the fudge still hadn't set. Instead of soft velvety blocks, I had a pan of grainy mush.

"What the hell happened?" I asked my husband. "No one screws up fudge."

He peered into the pan. "That's supposed to be fudge?"

"Never mind," I snapped. "I guess we can't take it to Flagstaff."

"No, let's take it," he said, his mouth working against a smile. "We can stick the pan in the snow, maybe it'll set."

"That's very funny. You're such a funny guy." I grabbed the pan and a couple of spoons and headed back to the family room, where The Polar Express was restarting. I dimmed the lights, snuggled up with my little girl, and handed her a spoon. This was good enough for me.

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