I’ve got a confession to make. I buy Valentine’s candy. For myself.
No, of course I’m not talking about those large, red velvety, heart-shaped boxes filled with assorted chocolates.
I purchase those for my wife and daughters. And I buy local, by the way. At Vasilow’s an old-time candy store in Hudson, NY.
But if I did acquire for personal consumption a box bursting with raspberry crèmes, sea salt caramels, and chocolate covered cashews, so what? Who came up with the dorky notion that the bounty of Valentine’s Day should be reserved for the female sex?
I respected the gesture when my father came home with a large Valentine’s heart for my mother. But I’d have respected it even more if he’d remembered my younger brothers and me. That would have staunched the guilt of stealing my mother’s chocolate -- a notorious sweet tooth she was, and still is -- when she wasn’t looking.
No, the Valentine’s candy I buy myself are those over-the-counter chocolate covered marshmallow, caramel, and fudge hearts you can find at your local supermarket.
In fact, I risked mortification yesterday when I found the aisle where they stock holiday candies blocked by a burly deliveryman.
(By the way, a gentle hint that you can do with whatever you want: even though Easter is two months off and the marshmallow Peeps have yet to arrive, the Cadbury Crème Eggs are already in and they’ll never be any fresher than they are right now.)
I was afraid the delivery man might make some crack when I squeezed past him to reach the shelves bursting with Reese’s Valentine’s Peanut Butter hearts, pink and white M&M’s, Valentine’s Tootsie Pops, and Brach’s Tiny Conversation Hearts candies (you know, the kind printed with messages such as “Sweet Thing” and “Hugs and Kisses.”)
Fortunately, he kept his mouth shut. And I’d like to reiterate that I limit myself to those aforementioned foil-wrapped hearts. And never more than one or two, or three maximum, on any supermarket run.
Curiously, I never purchase seasonal candy the day after the holiday, whatever the holiday happens to be, when supermarkets and drug stores slash their prices.
It’s not as if they’re any less fresh than they were the day before. I suspect they’re so shot with preservatives they’d taste exactly the same next Valentine’s Day.
It must be that, despite my chocolate addiction, I’m just as much a sucker for Cupid’s punch as the next guy, or typically gal.
But my wife recently came up with a more manly way for me to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Fudge sauce!
If chocolate is your thing, there’s no more potent delivery system than hot fudge.
The problem is the wide variety in quality, and all those products masquerading as fudge sauce that are actually, quote, “toppings.” You need to read the label carefully. There’s no substitute for the all-natural real thing.
Indeed, my belief is that there’s as much variety, as many flavor notes, in an excellent fudge sauce as there is in a fine Bordeaux.
My favorite locally is Mother Myrick’s homemade hot fudge sauce out of Manchester, Vermont. Chatham, NY’s Blue Plate restaurant also makes an intense hot fudge sauce that they sell by the jar.
My first exposure to this culinary delight probably came at the Schrafft’s restaurant chain.
No life form is more ravenous than the average 12-year-old after a day at school. So I’d go to Schrafft’s and treat myself to a sundae. My mouth waters all these decades later when I remember the experience.
But that’s the thing about hot fudge. It’s Proustian. It makes you realize that you never completely leave childhood behind. And all it takes to retrieve it is a syrup of sugar, chocolate, butter, salt and vanilla extract heated in a microwave.
Among the other things I do to embarrass my spouse is when I order hot fudge sundaes at restaurants and tell them to hold the ice cream, at least the majority of it. And if it’s not too much trouble could they bring an extra helping of hot fudge on the side.
Which is why you should always have some at home. So you don’t have to humiliate yourself in public.
I’d go so far as to argue that hot fudge ought to be as much a staple in your refrigerator as a container of excellent sour pickles.
It’s the condiment for all seasons. But if you need to hide behind a holiday, Valentine’s Day will certainly do.
Ralph Gardner Jr. is a journalist who divides his time between New York City and Columbia County. More of his work can be found at ralphgardner.com
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