This was a tough week for writing. Every writer gets writer’s block now and again. I’m writing a book that seemingly has nothing to do with food and another that completely does, so this can be a serious problem. Write a book. Sure! Why not? Two, please! I love it! This is why I drink coffee. It keeps me calm. Seriously. Well, decaf actually puts me to sleep, so I stay away from that stuff. In fact, whenever someone mentions “decaf”, I have to ask myself “why?”
However, while writing for this week’s food blog was a bigger challenge than usual, it was not because of writer’s block. It was difficult because many ideas came to me, causing distraction like some people get distracted with shiny objects. I tend to think in food blog posts. Blueberries! Pumpkins! Travel! Climate change! Farms! Oh, my! The materials for blogging are endless. Yes, exactly like when I was super little and would go to my uncle’s candy store in Marlborough, MA. His selections of hard and soft candies, as well as fudge were pretty much famous in New England. He made candy nearly all of his life, starting as a young man in the 1900’s working for New England Confectionary Company. In later years, he downsized to making only fudge and moved his business to Wolfboro, NH. I don’t know if he enjoyed the personal recognition. I suspect my unassuming uncle enjoyed satisfying the sweet tooth of a little girl more than he enjoyed notoriety.
I remember Uncle Russell as a tall man, with a kind face sporting a graying mustache accentuating his kind smile, in turn making the corners of his eyes crinkle. I recall him bending down slightly from his lean, 6’4” stature to my four year old stature to ask me how I’ve been. As my mother and grandmother would chat, I would begin my tour. When our visits from Maine were at Christmastime, my first order of business was saying hello to Santa Claus, who stood as sentry at the front door, greeting shoppers with good cheer. He wasn’t real, but as I had a vivid imagination, I would pretend he was real. He always had time to listen to my chattering. Then off I would scamper to the cases, looking for inspiration to choose the two that would win my favor.
Candy was not something in which my mother often allowed me to indulge, but when we would go to Uncle Russell’s, I was allowed to pick out two options. It may seem cliché, but thinking of those endless cases of assortments of hard candies, fudge, caramels and taffy brings back sweet memories of days gone by. I remember pressing my face to the glass, hoping to will a tiny morsel into my possession. The assortment of colors were like jewels winking at me, trying to win me over.
My first choice was always checkerberry. Oh, my! I tell you, I was sure my uncle was the only one on the planet who could make these little, pink hard candy squares that made your mouth think it was on an adventure. He would boil the delectable goodness until it was the perfect temperature for pulling, rolling and cutting. There was no such thing as “artificial flavoring”. He used Mother Nature’s genuine, original, little green leaf treasures, which grow close to the forest floor and sport tiny, red berries. My mother used to have me collect the leaves and berries to make jelly back home. When forest exploring, I liked to pick the leaves and berries to chew for a little “out with nature” treat.
My second selection was a tougher one. We’re talking choices of butterscotch, mints, chocolates, fudge and that famous “and more”. Most of the time my choice was a small box of penuche — a type of fudge. Made correctly, penuche has a smooth, creamy texture that tastes like butterscotch with maple overtones. Some people add nuts, but I am a purist. Uncle Russell taught my mother to make it and she did a fabulous rendition of it back home, but picking it out in his store made it seem even more delicious. Whenever I go to a candy store today, I look for penuche offerings that taste like I remember. I am forever disappointed. No doubt, this is because they are lacking the tasteful memories of days gone by.
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