when i was a little girl, my family used to spend summer vacation in rehoboth beach, delaware. we'd go for a week in july or august, rent a house. when i was very small my grandparents used to come, too - but my grandmother never really like the beach, so that didn't last.
beyond the sand, the sea, the raft, and the shells, there were so many beach experiences we looked forward to each year - flying a kite, visiting the outlet (this was back before there were outlet malls everywhere - this outlet was a dark, narrow shop on the main street in rehoboth with piles and piles of t-shirts - my father was searching for polo), picking out t-shirts with heat-press images at the t-shirt factory, eating thrasher's french fries, and fudge.
my father loved penuche fudge. my brother and i would get chocolate fudge, or rocky road, but we'd wait and hope for tastes of my father's special flavor.
how can i describe penuche to you? alan, at maona.net, says, if smooth were a flavor, it would want to be called penuche, and that's just it. there's nothing quite like the flavor.
dave and i have visited rehoboth beach, delaware each summer for the past seven years with b., and then with l., too - and the penuche fudge is gone. i still ask at the candy stores every year, and i'm still disappointed when i can't find it. occasionally i find someone who knows what i'm talking about, and then we share in the pleasure of remembering.
several years ago, after my father passed away, my dear aunt paula - my father's sister - found a recipe for penuche frosting. it was just the flavor that i remembered from those childhood visits to the beach - and every year since then, on his birthday, we make cake with penuche frosting in celebration of my father's life.
today, my father would have been sixty years old. my grandmother told me again, today, the story of my father's birth - of how she ate stewed apricots before going to the hospital with my grandfather, and with her mother and her brother also in the car.
this afternoon, while i talked to my grandmother on the telephone and baked the cake (at the same time) i had to make the frosting twice - the first time it came out lumpy. the second time - moving more slowly, paying more care, aware of my intention to honor my father in this special way - the frosting was perfect!
and so tonight, as i shared this cake with my family, we celebrated my father and his love of beauty, of literature, fountain pens, cashmere socks, collecting elephants. we celebrated his artistry in painting and writing, his true and deep love of life, and his enjoyment of penuche fudge, as i passed on the legacy of penuche to my own children.