One of the better things I’ve ever had in my mouth. #thatiswhatshesaid

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I’m having a brief moment of wakefulness right now. I haven’t had too many of those as of late. I’ve gone through the last few days in the fog of jetlag, waking up at 4 in the morning and crashing (heavily) around 7 or 8pm. My body and my brain are making it painfully clear that I can’t travel like I used to.

And so I’d like to take this brief moment of lucidity to tell you a bit about Africa. I hate to say that it was a life-changing experience, because that expression is so melodramatic and overused. But the thing is, it was precisely that. There was more than one occasion where I would pause, take in my surroundings, and realize that it was in the middle of one of the more incredible moments of my life.

Between the immensity of that, and my lack of sleep, I’m having trouble knowing where to start. How do you even begin talking about your first visit to a new country, and a new continent? How do you sit down and write about your visit to a place that is (almost exactly) on the other end of the world?

For me, I do it by talking about fudge.

Yes, fudge. That squishy sweet stuff that is, essentially, frosting you can acceptably eat with your fingers. The South African incarnation of it is radically different than what we eat in the states. There is something profoundly significant in that small detail. That you can travel across the planet, you can sit on the edge of the world, and you can eat a dessert that is somewhat familiar and all at once different. And as you contentedly rot your teeth with it, you realize that the world is incredibly huge and also absurdly small.

And so that’s where I will begin.

Here’s the thing: fudge in South Africa does not have chocolate in it. Not a bit. Nor does it even have things that suggest chocolate, like cocoa powder or carob (what the hell is carob, anyway? Someone, please tell me what poor soul invented it, so we can hunt them down and force feed them Nutella until dawn.)

No. Fudge in South Africa is white.

They even have fudge flavored ice cream, and guess what? It’s white, too.

There was no chocolate to speak of in this fudge ice cream. Not even white chocolate.

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Does that revelation make you uncomfortable? Because it certainly made me a little bit twitchy. To the point where I almost refused to accept the stuff as fudge. I suppose there’s much that could be said about that. There’s the makings of a thesis paper in there, somewhere, if you look. I hope you’ll forgive me for not venturing too far down that path.

I first encountered the fudge at Bushman’s Kloof. We came in one night from our evening wildlife drive, and it sat, innocuously, on a small plate next to our bed. There was no explanation of what it was, and really, why should there have been? In South Africa, it wasn’t something extraordinary. At least, no more extraordinary than fudge usually is.

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And so I took a bite, not knowing at the time what exactly it was. That’s how I am with desserts: I plunge in, indiscriminately. The time for questions is later, as you press your fingers against the last few crumbs on the plate and wonder what, precisely, you just devoured.

The fudge had a slight crust on the top and sides, revealing a creamy interior. Its texture was not entirely unlike American fudge – perhaps a bit more crumbly, the granules of sugar more prevalent. The texture was deep and complicated – with hints of browned butter and a peaty scotch.

Have you ever fallen in love during the month of October? Because that is exactly what it tasted like.

I asked one of our guides about it. Her answer, that it was simply fudge, was not sufficient.

“It can’t be,” I said. It contained no chocolate, no marshmallow cream. And perhaps most significantly, it did not give me a headache, like chocolate always does.

It reminded me of falling leaves and autumn weddings and first kisses. It was not commonplace. It was not fudge. But in South Africa, it was.

Full list of categories:  Food » WTF » WTF Wednesdays
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Comments (30)

  1. 06. Feb, 2013 / Ilse:

    I looked at the recipe. Three pounds of caster sugar. I think that is probably an illegal quantity in my country. How is it possible there are any South Africans left with teeth?

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  2. 06. Feb, 2013 / Mandy:

    So glad it was fudge sitting by your table and not decorative soaps! Looks so pretty sitting there…can’t wait to read more about your African adventure!

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  3. 06. Feb, 2013 / winopants:

    I’m sure there is a good story and rationale as to why South African chocolate is white, but you have to admit this is positively dripping with irony. Awkwardly political sweets?

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    winopants Reply:

    fudge I meant!

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    Alexandra Shiels Reply:

    I have to admit that the phrase “awkwardly political sweets” made me giggle!

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  4. 06. Feb, 2013 / Divya:

    YAY! You’re finally in my homeland, so glad to hear you are working your way through our long list of local desserts. Have had milk tart, peppermint crisp tart or koeksisters yet? My favorite is the koeksister: imagine a crispy fried donut soaked through and through in syrup. Need I say more.

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  5. 07. Feb, 2013 / Maritza:

    I’m baffled… as a South African, I had no idea that fudge could be this confusing! I had no idea that one would expect to put chocolate in fudge, because then it wouldn’t be fudge at all?!… At least in South Africa. It goes to show what travel can do to stretch a frame of reference! I get the impression you didn’t like the “white” fudge…

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    Maritza Reply:

    Oh wait, “falling leaves, Autumn weddings, first kisses”, those are all GOOD things (and very poetic! :D ). I’m sorry, I guess I was blinded by the utter ridiculousness of the comment posted above mine. And now I need a piece of fudge!

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    Enid Reply:

    It is so cool to see fellow South Africans reading this blog as well! And yes, I also found the above comment just a little offensive.

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  6. 07. Feb, 2013 / Lee:

    The description of the fudge’s texture is not too different than PA Dutch fudge. Although, S.A. fudge seems to have more sugar; PA Dutch more butter (not a surprise). And of course, chocolate, lots of it (as in Dutch chocolate).

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  7. 07. Feb, 2013 / Emmi:

    In the Netherlands we’re also used to the (English?) fudge: no chocolate, just butter, sugar and – I guess – cream or milk. Yum yum. I’ve been to the US a few times and now I realize why those fudge sundaes are called fudge sundaes: it’s the chocolaty sauce that’s referred to as fudge. Here I was thinking: why do they keep forgetting the fudge :-). Another Great Mystery of Life solved…..

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  8. 07. Feb, 2013 / Kristina Cline:

    Its Bizarro Fudge World!

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  9. 07. Feb, 2013 / Kodi:

    I love that people all over the world read this blog and can give their views on your travels! A non-chocolate fudge, who would have thought?!

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  10. 07. Feb, 2013 / Cat:

    Everyone is going to Africa. I’m not sure why I haven’t gone yet! Totally on a half related, but kinda not note, I love nutella. I melt it and eat it with a spoon. Delicious.

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  11. 07. Feb, 2013 / Kristen:

    You just made my mouth water. Over and over. Dear God, how to smuggle such luxuries into the states?! Do it! DO ITTTTTTTTTT.

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  12. 07. Feb, 2013 / Maria | Acceleratedstall:

    Wow! This is so well written, constructed with such care – At first I too was in love with your edible delight but now I’m in love with your story telling. May I have some more please? :-)

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  13. 07. Feb, 2013 / Just One Boomer (Suzanne):

    Did you actually consume an entire piece of “fudge” right before bedtime — without an insulin chaser? How long did it take you to fall asleep after that sugar jolt?

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  14. 07. Feb, 2013 / Chereen:

    My cat loves fudge! ( The non-chocolatey South African kind ). Fudge of various flavors ( including chocolate ) is a bit of a cottage industry here but, the regular stuff is, well, fudge flavored.

    And, in the spirit of international understanding, what on earth is ‘marshmallow cream’? Sounds positively awful – I must have some.

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  15. 07. Feb, 2013 / Loree:

    That reminds me of the dinner at the burger place – I ordered a cream soda. It was green, and tasted like flowers.

    South Africans: Yeah, that’s what cream soda tastes like.
    Americans: No it doesn’t!
    South Africans: Why, what does it taste like in the States?
    Americans: Cream! Vanilla cream!

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    Everywhereist Reply:

    THAT MAKES NO SENSE.

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  16. 07. Feb, 2013 / Laura:

    I ordered a Cream Soda in South Africa and received something bright green. I guess I had an interesting look on my face because my travel companion said, “Oh…I should have warned you…it’s a bit different here.”

    No kidding.

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  17. 07. Feb, 2013 / Chloe Winstone:

    I was confused when I read this post; I don’t live in South Africa yet the fudge we have here doesn’t contain chocolate either! I was saved by Wikipedia though, apparently our fudge (I live in the UK) is made with just sugar, butter and milk. If you ever come back to the UK, you REALLY need to try our fudge. There are so many different flavours available (my personal favourite is clotted cream fudge), I’m 100% sure that you will be in fudge heaven!

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  18. 07. Feb, 2013 / Rosie:

    I love fudge which has that slightly grainy texture that almost crumbles on your tongue. I think (though I could be wrong) that the South African version is pretty similar to the crumbly Scottish fudge known locally as “tablet”.

    Best fudge ever, though, is fudge made by little old grannies and sold at summer fetes – no shop-bought fudge can ever compare.

    Mmmmm.

    Fudge.

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  19. 07. Feb, 2013 / Schweet Life:

    I was born and raised in NYC but my family is from the West Indies so I grew up with white fudge. I think I became aware of and tried American-style fudge (the chocolate stuff) for the first time when I was about 12.

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  20. 08. Feb, 2013 / Ring:

    I demand a recipe. We will be staging a Fudge Off for Valentine’s Day. Win-win, wouldn’t you say? Both versions sound delicious.

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  21. 08. Feb, 2013 / Andrea:

    This just straight up blew my mind. I’ve had non-chocolate fudge before, but usually because it’s flavored with other things. Like peanut butter. If I’d been there I probably would have asked them to tell me what kind of fudge it was, why it was just fudge…and then we all would have been confused.

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  22. 08. Feb, 2013 / Laura:

    Your writing just made me wish that I had fallen in love in October and then I realized that I did. And I knew exactly what you meant! Sounds wonderful.

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  23. 10. Feb, 2013 / Sofagirl:

    Hi hope this helps, I live in Scotland and this sounds a lot like what we call tablet. You would find it homemade in cafes and shops and suprisingly at carboot sales (a bit like an organised yard sale but everyone turns up at a car park and sets up a table at the boot of their car to sell their things) I think the mums of families must decide that it’s a good thing to make as it is cheap to make and easy to wrap and sell for 50p a slice

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  24. 06. Mar, 2013 / ANISA:

    wow, now my mouth is watering. I wish I had some fudge now. Any kind will do.
    Oh, and Geraldine- haha to the “That’s what she said” Love it!

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  25. 23. May, 2013 / Deborah:

    In the US there is something called penuche–can be frosting or fudge. Sounds very similar. It’s made with white and brown sugar and cream. By definition fudge is a type of candy made with sugar, butter and milk or cream. Somehow folks in the US assume it’s gotta be chocolate. It all sounds yummy to me!

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