Oh, fudge: Peanut Butter treat brings flavor, gratitude

By Candace Nelson - 7:18 PM

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Here's my latest column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

The best gifts don’t come wrapped in bows or bright gift bags. They don’t come from Amazon or Target. They don’t come with batteries or an extended life warranty.

They come enveloped in wax paper. Or a tupperware container. Or, in my case, a green tin with an illustration of a moose on the top.

Inside that tin were 10 thick squares of peanut butter fudge lovingly crafted by my sweet neighbor, Veda. Peanut butter fudge, to me, is a true gift in Appalachia because it takes hard work to create and happily fills your tummy - as well as your soul.

It’s sweet and comforting and everything good that makes you feel cozy. That may be why it is a common present for holidays or birthdays (mine is in just a few days - hello fellow Capricorns!) in the mountains.

According to Mark F. Sohn in “Appalachian Home Cooking: History, Culture, & Recipes,” peanut butter fudge is one of many defining foods of Appalachia.

In his list of 100 food items that are popular, have historic roots or elicit strong emotions in Appalachia, peanut butter fudge is in the top 25.

“These foods are of Appalachia not only because the region embraces them, but, more importantly, because Appalachians prepare them and recall them with joy. Of the foods listed below, some are symbolic while others are daily fare. Although food preparations have changed dramatically over the last 50 years, some elements of taste, styles of cooking, and cooking utensils persist causing traditional mountain foods to endure,” he writes.

Here is the top of Sohn’s list, with peanut butter fudge rounding out the first quarter.

First 10: bacon, biscuits and breakfast gravy, chicken ‘n’ dumplings, cornbread, coffee, fried potatoes, green beans, soup beans, stack cakes, vegetable soup.

Next 15: apple butter, chili, coleslaw, corn on the cob, deviled eggs, dumplings, fried apples, fried chicken, gingerbread, kraut and weiners, moonshine, peanut butter fudge, pork chops, sausage gravy, sweet potatoes.

While other areas of the world certainly make and enjoy fudge of all sorts, I think the tie is strong to our region because fudge requires few ingredients and can last for quite some time - even well past the holidays.

That’s why it is special. Each time I get a craving for a sweet treat, I can dip into my moose tin stash of peanut butter fudge and think of my sweet friend who spent an evening crafting this delight just for me. Thanks, Veda.

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