Today is National Nutty Fudge Day. Where did this tasty treat originate and how did it get its name?
The creation of American-style chocolate fudge is often credited to student Emelyn Hartridge and her Vassar Fudge recipe. She later revealed in a letter, preserved in the Vassar College Archives, that she had cheated:
Fudge, as I first knew it, was first made in Baltimore by a cousin of a school mate of mine. It was sold in 1886 in a grocery store for 40 cents a pound and my brother Julian bought me my first box. … I secured the recipe and in my first year at Vassar I made it there — and in 1888 I made 30 pounds for the Senior Auction, its real introduction to the college, I think.
Miss Hartridge neglected to name the school chum, her cousin or the store that sold it in Baltimore. The paper trail ends there, so we’re unable to determine who invented fudge, or at least its chocolate incarnation. Was it a happy accident, a confectionery miracle, or a product of diligent trial and error? We may never know.
It’s also unclear how fudge earned its name. Delving into the history of the word reveals no easy answers. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the use of fudge as a verb meaning to “put together clumsily or dishonestly” dates to 1771. The word itself may have derived from fadge, “to make suit or fit,” used since the 1570s.
In 1664, Samuel Pepys, whose diaries are used by scholars to illuminate the English Restoration period, wrote of Captain Fudge, a merchant seaman he had engaged to take goods to Tangier before the discovery of his “knavery and neglect.”
After finding the condition of the ship, no master, not above four men, and many ship’s provisions, sayls, and other things wanting, I went back and called upon Fudge, whom I found like a lying rogue unready to go on board, but I did so jeer him that I made him get every thing ready….I confess I am at a real trouble for fear the rogue should not do his work, and I come to shame and losse of the money I did hope justly to have got by it.
We don’t hear of Captain Fudge again so perhaps he acquitted himself well. But is he the reason “fudge” became a derogatory verb? A pamphlet called Remarks to the Navy, printed in 1700, had this to say:
There was, sir, in our time, one Captain Fudge, commander of a merchantman, who upon his return from a voyage, how ill-fraught soever his ship was, always brought home his owners a good cargo of lies; so much that now, aboard ship, the sailors, when they hear a great lie told, cry out, ‘You fudge it!’
It seems possible that a seaman derelict in his duties may have influenced the English language. As for who invented delicious, sugary fudge: Who cares? Let’s eat some and call it a day. (Well, it is already a day.) If you’re not a fan of nuts, hang in there. National Fudge Day is June 16th!
Happy National Nutty Fudge Day!