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They’ll hurt you, and dessert you

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, January 5, 2013

When I was a kid, my mom made Martha Washington chocolates at Christmas – balls of sugar, coconut, pecans and some other good stuff, all encased in a chocolate shell.

[My bride and I have discussed how not-analytical I am about food. Cooks take a bite and try to figure out what's in it: "Is that thyme? Did she toast these almonds?" I'm more basic: "Whoa! That's good!" is as technical as I get.]

Bob Buckel

Martha Washingtons, or “Marthas” as I affectionately call them, are apparently a lot of work. The threat that they were too much trouble even inspired me, as a child, to help out rather than do without. I remember Mom showing me how to use a toothpick to dunk them in hot, waxy chocolate that hardened quickly to encase the glistening white confection, then deposit them on wax paper to cool in neat rows.

If we’d had an industrial assembly line, I’d have happily done a Lucy-and-Ethel bit, stuffing them into my bulging cheeks as they rolled by faster and faster (Google it, kids. It’s hilarious).

That taste just said Christmas to me. It still does.

This year, for the first time in awhile, we had some of those again – and a strange thing happened. No matter how interesting the football game was, no matter how scintillating the conversation or enthralling the movie, I rarely went more than a few minutes without being aware of them.

They were on the kitchen counter, surrounded by fruitcake and pound cake, tins of nuts, cookies, yogurt-dipped pretzels, colorful popcorn – you name it. The Marthas were on a platter covered by a clear-plastic shower-cap-for-food thingie with elastic around the edges.

Throughout the holiday weekend, they never stopped calling to me.

When George Bailey said, “Say brainless! Don’t you know where coconuts come from?” I thought of the Marthas.

When Ralphie’s eyes grew wide with wonder as he stared through the store window at the Red Ryder BB gun, I thought of my kid-eyes staring at rows of Marthas.

When the Grinch slid into Whoville to steal Christmas, I slid into the kitchen and stole another Martha.

When a football was fumbled and players dove for it on the artificial turf, I found myself grasping for an imaginary Martha, bouncing out of bounds as thousands cheered.

Over a two-day stretch, I stretched the elastic on that platter until the last Martha was gone. And sadly, that elastic wasn’t the only thing that began to stretch.

Not to change the subject, but here’s a physics question: How can eating, at most, one pound of candy cause a person to gain 10 pounds?

I’ll bet Martha would know.

One Response to “They’ll hurt you, and dessert you”

  1. This story makes me remember my childhood as well. My mother makes those every year. This Christmas I couldn’t make it home, but I yearned to be there as I listened to my sister and my mother over the phone laughing as they continued the tradition of the Martha Washingtons. Nothing says Christmas to me more than Martha Washingtons!!

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