What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


This morning I read an article about how most airlines in the US are bitching and moaning about new government regulations that would require them to post the real price of a ticket after taxes and mandatory fees have been added. The airlines’ stated argument for not doing so is that the “higher prices” would deter people from buying tickets. Huh? What higher prices? Do people really not check to see how much the bottom line would be before buying an airline ticket? Whatever the price posted by the airlines, the price that shows up on the customer’s credit card statement is going to be the total amount after the taxes and mandatory fees have been added, and that’s the amount that comes out of their bank account. Do the airlines really have such a low opinion of their customers’ intelligence and math skills that they don't expect them to notice the bottom line? If the airlines truly wanted to make people aware of how much they are paying in taxes, as they profess, then there is no reason why they can’t provide a breakdown of what items go into the total price, including taxes, government fees, and their own extra hidden fees, such as “fuel surcharge”.

Once the airlines are required to show the total cost of a flight, I hope that hotels will not be far behind. I can’t begin to say how annoying it is to look at hotel rates, only to find at checkout that there was a hefty tax added to each day’s stay, making the total far more than was budgeted. Even though I know about this practice, it still irks me to see the hidden taxes reflected on the final statement. I long ago learned to inquire how much tax would be before booking a hotel room, but I suspect I’m in the minority given the surprised reluctance of most hotel desk employees to talk about it. I understand that some hotels also have extra hidden “resort fees” on top of the taxes. I just haven’t stayed at those places, since I don’t go to Las Vegas, Disney World or such popular vacation spots.

Finally, there’s the food service business. In the US, the prices posted on the menu do not include tax (about 10%), nor do they include the expected tip for the wait staff (anywhere from 10-20% of the total, for an average of about 15%). The practice of tipping is so ingrained in US culture and so taken for granted that very little has been written about it. A Google search turned up only a handful of minimal posts like this one. Once tax and tip have been added to the total, the customer pays an average of about 25% more than the posted menu price. Failure to include tax and service in the price of food makes the base price of a meal appear much lower than it actually is, even though everyone at some intuitive level knows that tax will appear in the bottom line and that they are expected to leave a significant tip. Apparently false perception through a first impression is everything.

Not paying wait staff a living wage is a longstanding practice in the US restaurant business, effectively transferring the responsibility for paying the bulk of staff salaries directly to the customer, thereby allowing management to avoid paying social security and health insurance for their employees. If wait staff, the majority of whom are women, were respected enough to be paid a living wage with benefits, and if wages and tax were included in the price of food, the prices shown on every menu in the US would probably rise by 25-30%, but customers would walk out of the restaurant minus exactly the same amount of cash (on average) as if it had been done piecemeal. The advantage of engaging in denial of the bottom line escapes me.

[All photos adapted from Wikimedia]

Monday, January 30, 2012


Every so often there’s a discussion on a perfume forum or garden forum about whether or not certain flowers have a fragrance. The question is often asked about orchids, since most of the orchids sold in supermarkets are Phalaenopsis hybrids that have been bred for fast growth, large flower size, symmetrical shape, and bright color. The breeders of these orchid equivalents of the white leghorn chicken (a flightless living factory for breast meat and eggs) seem to forget that one of the reasons people love flowers is because of their fragrance. As I point out here from time to time, many orchids do, in fact, have strong fragrances to attract pollinators, just as jungle fowl, the ancestors of domestic chickens, can actually fly to get around and escape predators.

A while back, I read a discussion about whether daffodils, narcissus or marigolds have a fragrance. In fact, each type of flowers has a very characteristic fragrance, often quite strong, and absolutes are extracted from all of them for use in perfumery. However, if you go in a florist shop, the chances of finding a fragrant flower are practically zero.

As Valentine’s Day rolls around, I have visions of hordes of women (and some men) being given bouquets of flowers, automatically sniffing them, and consciously or subconsciously being disappointed to find that they have no odor except, perhaps, a faint residue of fertilizer of pesticide that was applied in the faraway country where they were grown, or a stale refrigerator smell.

Prime offenders are roses, daffodils, narcissus, cyclamens, and now lilies, which were one of the last scented hold-outs. It used to be a treat to smell the lilies in supermarket floral displays, but I've noticed that more and more have been de-scented, and even deprived of their pollen. It seems the commercial flower growers' mottos are "flowers should be seen and not smelled”, and “Flowers should not appear to engage in any activities related to sexual reproduction.”

So if you want to give your sweetie fragrant flowers for Valentine’s day, what are your options? Frankly, I don’t know. Maybe a farmer’s market that sells home-grown flowers, or a nursery that sells blooming plants that actually do have a fragrance. Gardenia and jasmine come to mind, as do winter daphne and other winter-blooming shrubs. Even hardy cyclamens have a fragrance. If you are lucky enough to have an orchid nursery nearby, a winter-blooming cattleya with its exotic fragrance would blow anyone away. Think beyond the dozen tired, plastic-looking red roses on artificial life support in the refrigerator case. How could you go wrong with a fragrant living plant and a box of good chocolates or a bottle of good perfume? Come to think of it, a deluxe sample set of perfumes from Olympic Orchids might make an interesting and unusual Valentine’s gift, too!

Saturday, January 28, 2012


After ranting in my last post, here’s my rave of the week. A while back I wrote about several different species of Artemisia, a genus that I’ve been exploring recently as a source of essential oils for natural perfumes. I just got a new one to add to the list, Artemisia ludoviciana, also known as peach Artemisia, silver wormwood, owyhee, prairie sage, or white sagebrush, and I’m loving it. It’s native to the western US, growing in all the usual places where sagebrush grows. The USDA map shows it growing throughout most of the USA and Canada. As its name implies, the leaves are sliver-white, on a small to medium sized perennial shrub.

My first impression of the essential oil, sniffing it from the bottle, is that it’s bitter, herbal, camphorous, and medicinal, with foody-chamomile like nuances, the overall character being almost industrial-smelling. On paper, it maintains this medicinal-industrial character for a few hours, but once the most bitter and camphorous of the green notes burn off, there’s a distinct, oily-fruity canned peach scent along with the woody notes. By the next day, the peach note is all that remains - a sweet, light impression of fresh peaches along with a sprinkling of sage.

Applied to my skin, the progression is the same, just faster. The oily peach note appears within a half hour, producing a lovely camphorous-herbal woody, sweet-fruity scent. I can see using this oil in all-natural compositions where I’m looking for a true-to-life fruit note in the heart. The oil will also provide strong aromatic, herbal notes in the top. I’m looking forward to some experiments using Artemisia ludoviciana in a perfume.

[Peach Artemisia photo from Wikimedia]

Friday, January 27, 2012


If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I would be buying perfume raw materials by the pound or the kilogram, I would have laughed in their face and told them they were crazy. However, as my business develops, I find myself doing that more and more. Each time I have to replace a material, I order it in a larger quantity. I now have a storage area for those big aluminum bottles that look like thermoses, and I have to say that it’s a wonderful convenience to be able to go there and refill my little 2-ounce working bottle whenever it runs out instead of having to order more.

The whole issue of making perfume in larger quantities hit home this past weekend, when I placed orders for larger “lab” glassware than I’ve been using. Many of my perfumes need some quiet time to blend after mixing, so I need to keep two batches going - a mature one to dilute from, and a young one aging.

I haven’t posted anything on this blog for a while partly because of time spent reorganizing my storage and work areas, partly because of catching up at my “day job” after a week off due to snow, and partly because of time spent preparing and filing my state business tax forms.

I hate all types of bureaucratic activities with a passion. The aggravation caused by the tax forms, which admittedly would have been easier to deal with had I kept organized records rather than having to search through all of my real and virtual files for information, was compounded by online forms that I had to fill out for the university, one of which I submit every year. However, every year the format changes even though the responses don’t, so I can’t use the old material. Wasted time. The other form was a one-time thing, which I spent a great deal of time filling out, only to have it rejected due to a bug in the system, deleting all of my work. More wasted time. I sincerely hope that one day communicating through online forms will be as easy as simply talking in person, talking on the phone, responding to an e-mail message, or even mailing a handwritten memo. Until then, I will continue to go berserk every time I encounter a user-hostile form online.

It’s sad to think how much of our lives are wasted on bureaucratic trivia. It only seems to have gotten worse now that every organization has a plethora of online forms to fill out. It’s easy to make people fill out a form that no one has to deal with in person. For all I know, no human ever sees any of the mandatory forms and reports that I submit to websites. It’s even more likely that no human ever sees any complaints about forms that are submitted - on another form, of course.

[Filling out tax forms by hand in 1920 photo from Wikimedia]

Friday, January 20, 2012


I’ve skipped posting much for a few days because, frankly, I’ve been spending a lot of time marveling at all the snow we’ve been having. I confess, I love snow with a passion. There’s something miraculous and hypnotic about watching the white flakes fall out of the sky and transform the ordinary world into a magical kingdom in which everything is strange and new. I love to go out and walk in the snow. There’s something profoundly sensual about being showered with fluffy white stuff, like a constant stream of confetti. I don’t even mind that it’s cold. In fact, it doesn’t feel as cold when it’s below freezing and snowing as it does when it’s above freezing and raining that cold Seattle drizzle.

A snow day turned into a snow week, or rather, an ice-snow-ice-snow-ice-snow week. I’ve lost track of what day the first snow occurred, but it was a considerable amount that started out with a thick covering of about 4 inches, followed by a little freezing misty rain that melted a bit of it. Then we got another couple of inches of snow, followed by a massive ice storm - freezing rain that encased everything in a hard, heavy, transparent cocoon of ice. Then the snow started up again and fell heavily for over 12 hours, on top of all the other snow and ice, a major dump that resulted in deeper snow than I’ve ever seen here. This morning it’s finally starting to melt. It’s amazing to see the bamboo, that had been weighted flat to the ground, pop upright as the ice drops off.

With temperatures below freezing for a week, it made me think about what “cold” smells like. To me, cold air has a kind of watery-mineral scent that’s both wet and dry at the same time. There are other scents associated with cold weather, like wood smoke and (choke!!) car exhaust, which seems augmented many times over in cold weather, but those are not the smell of “cold” per se.

I think there are scents that people have traditionally been trained to perceive as symbols of “cold”, especially mint, and other things that stimulate trigeminal receptors that can signal “cold”, especially the contrast effect of drinking cool water after eating mint. To me mint doesn’t smell at all like cold air, so I was surprised to read a perfume review a while back complaining that a “cold air”-themed perfume didn’t smell cold because it didn’t contain mint. I associate mint with hot mint tea, chocolate-covered peppermint patties, or working in the garden in summer controlling runaway mint, so to me it’s more of a “warm”-themed scent than a cold one, trigeminal stimulation notwithstanding.

How do you perceive the scent of cold air or snow?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The winner of the drawing for a 5 ml travel spray bottle of Kyphi is: YUN

Please contact me with your full name and mailing address by sending a message to the e-mail listed in on the left side of my profile window.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


This morning I woke up to see everything covered with a thick blanket of snow, and more falling. It’s rare that we get this much snow, so when we do, it’s a real event. The snow is wet, so it sticks to everything. The bamboo is weighted down to the ground, and the trunks of the trees outside my window are covered with snow on the north side, where the wind was coming from. It’s beautiful, the classic winter picture. It’s amazing how snow transforms everything ordinary into something magical.

The down side is that our power has flickered off several times this morning, and so has my internet connection, so I’m going to do a quick post now in case these things go down for an extended period of time. One rule of nature seems to be that preparing for the worst ensures that it won’t happen.

Now I’m going for a walk in the snow, but before I do, this is a reminder that there’s a perfume drawing in the post just before this one, so scroll down and enter to win a 5 ml spray bottle of Kyphi.

[The photos were taken last time we had a big snowstorm, a couple of years ago. The blooming bougainvillea is inside!]

Saturday, January 14, 2012


When I was at the Sweet Anthem shop in West Seattle the other day, I got to sample several all-natural perfumes that I’ve been hesitant to try because of the extremely high cost. With samples running $24/ml, that’s way out of my price range unless it’s a rare and wonderful vintage perfume that I’m dying to sniff once in my lifetime, before it goes away forever. All three perfumes I tried were nice, but not something I’d love enough to buy. The one that has garnered the most rave reviews and been nominated for a FiFi award was my least favorite of the lot. It just goes to show that not everyone’s tastes are the same, and price is not always relevant to perfume love. It also brought to the forefront of my mind the question of why so many all-natural perfumes are so outrageously expensive.

There are a number of natural perfumers whose creations I haven’t tried simply because of cost. I can’t justify it. For the price of a 2 ml bottle of perfume I could buy 2 ml of natural oud oil, 7 ml of osmanthus or pink lotus absolute, 50 g of ambroxan, 60 ml of frankincense oil, 90 ml of Haitian vetiver, a pound of top-quality Madagascar vanilla beans, or 2 pounds of Atlas cedar oil. Of course, most people wouldn’t want to buy any of those things, so they might as well go for the perfume, but in my case it’s a real consideration.

Unless you’re using real oud, aged Mysore sandalwood, certain flower absolutes, real animal-derived materials or other such exotic things, natural materials aren’t much more expensive than good quality aroma chemicals, some of which are actually quite pricey. In any case, the very expensive materials get mixed with less expensive ones, and then the concentrate gets diluted with alcohol or oil. Natural materials can be a pain to work with, but once you figure out how to deal with dissolving, filtering, and such, it becomes fairly routine. The mechanics of bottling, labeling, packaging, and marketing are the same regardless of what’s in the bottle. Many of the natural materials that smell best and contribute most to a perfume are not terribly expensive in the overall scheme of things. To me, the smell of the final product is what’s important, not the rarity or cost of the materials that go into the mix.

The high prices of so many all-natural perfumes have made me realize that it might be a good idea to create a line of high quality all-natural perfumes that ordinary people like myself can afford, or at least afford to sample. My Kyphi fragrance is all-natural, and although it does contain some expensive materials like French beeswax absolute and saffron absolute, they’re only a small proportion of the whole, so I can sell it for the same price as the mixed media perfumes. Some of my mixed media perfumes, like Salamanca, actually contain a much higher proportion of expensive materials, even though they’re not 100% natural, so “all-natural” is not synonymous with “all costly materials”.

I’ve written fairly detailed briefs to myself for six all-natural fragrances, which, along with Kyphi will make seven. Some of them are spin-offs of my mixed media fragrances for people who want all-natural formulas. They’re all designed to have decent sillage and good longevity, properties that are not at all difficult to achieve using 100% naturals. The first one is undergoing its rest period as I write this. I tried it on the back of my hand last night before I went to bed, and today at noon can still smell the base of balsams and labdanum absolute.

What do you think about all-natural fragrances? Leave a comment and be entered in a random drawing to win a Kyphi 5-ml travel spray. The winner will be selected on Tuesday, January 17.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Last weekend I visited Meredith Smith in the lovely little perfume shop that she opened last October in West Seattle. Meredith is a perfumer who has been selling her own line, Sweet Anthem, on her website since 2006. Her new brick-and-mortar shop features her own complete line of perfume oils, EdPs, and solid perfumes. She currently carries other Pacific Northwest perfume lines as well, including Arcana (Portland, OR), Wiggle (Olympia, WA), Slumberhouse (Portland, OR), Rebel & Mercury (Seattle, WA), and Lulu Beauty (Seattle, WA). Within the next few weeks she will be adding selected perfumes from Ayala Moriel (Vancouver, BC) and some of my own Olympic Orchids perfumes.

Finding the shop is fairly straightforward, since it’s about 10 blocks south of the main business center of West Seattle, with plenty of street parking if you travel by car. The shop isn’t immediately obvious since the main, large lettering on the sign says “Vegan - Unique - Local”, with the name “Sweet Anthem” in small print at the top, but it is distinctive once you get used to the concept of the shop half-concealing its name.

Inside, the shop is simply and tastefully decorated and arranged, with everything displayed in an orderly and accessible way. It has a bright, comfortable feeling that’s enhanced by Meredith’s helpful manner and friendly smile. If you’re in the Seattle area, it’s a perfect place to spend some time sniffing.

With two perfume shops on California Avenue (the other one is Knows Perfume), West Seattle seems to be becoming the perfume center of the region. I’m not sure why, except that a lot of artsy people live there, so maybe that’s where the highest concentration of perfumistas is found. In any case, it’s a very good development. I'm looking forward to exploring some of the fragrances offered in Meredith's shop, including her own line.

Monday, January 9, 2012


One of the things I love about the Pacific Northwest is the sun breaks. Yes, it rains a lot. It gets dark at 4 PM this time of year. We get showers of tiny hail more often than seems normal. But every so often the clouds part and the sun comes out, shining in its full glory for a few seconds, minutes, or hours. The sun break phenomenon I’ve come to love most is the just-at-sunset sunbreak. For some reason, even if it’s been raining all day, more often than not there’s a short time right before sunset when the sky clears in the west and the sun peeks through in a yellow blaze of light.

A few days ago I was sitting at my table typing on my laptop when I looked out the window and saw that the whole sky had turned a deep purple with a thin, brilliant gold edge down in the southwest where the sun was setting. I rushed outside and saw the sun’s rays hitting the bare tree branches off to the northeast, making them glow with a copper color against the dark sky. The neighbors still had their Christmas lights up, and the twinkling lights juxtaposed with the glowing trees made for a strange image. When I rush outside to see beautiful natural phenomena I hardly ever remember to bring my camera, but this time I did, and I got pictures of the trees and the sunset sun break.

Sun Break would probably be a good name and concept for a perfume, even though I have way too many on the drawing board. What would you expect a perfume called Sun Break to smell like?

Friday, January 6, 2012


A good many dendrobiums are winter bloomers, keeping the greenhouse interesting through the months when it’s dark, cold, and rainy outside, and dark, cool and dry in my indoor dendrobium area. Most dendrobiums don’t have the “wow” factor that a big, bright-colored cattleya does, but they’re loveable just the same, and some of them bloom a lot more frequently. Dendrobium hercoglossum is covered with flowers, and has been blooming virtually non-stop for over a year.

A couple of days ago I found that my little Dendrobium tetragonum was blooming again. I say ‘again” because it seems like it just bloomed. It’s an Australian species, so its ancestors were probably subjected to drought and other natural forms of abuse, making it tough and perfectly suited to growing under my conditions. The plant itself is only about 4 inches tall. Instead of its canes being round like those of most other dendrobiums, they are square, hence the name. The flowers are large for the size of the plant, spidery in shape, and cream colored with rust brown borders. They put out a strong gourmand fragrance during the day, mostly vanilla with caramel and butterscotch, along with some sweet woody notes and just the slightest hint of mint. I don’t know what pollinates this species in nature, but it has good taste.

The other mini-orchid that’s blooming right now is Dendrobium kingianum. What a surprise to walk into the greenhouse the other day and see a community pot of about a dozen baby dendrobiums, the offspring of two of my adult plants, blooming away. There’s nothing more satisfying than to see my orchids’ kids grow up and bloom, especially when the flowers are as nice as these are. The flowers are all some shade of pink with delicate magenta markings on the lips. Dendrobium kingianum is not my favorite orchid fragrance, but it’s one of the most powerful. A single blooming plant can scent the whole house during the day. To me it smells like sweet clover amped up several orders of magnitude, with some cloying honey and pollen notes added. I wouldn’t want to wear it as a perfume, but it’s certainly a sillage monster.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


As so often happens, a comment by Gail set me to thinking about the nature of luxury, and whether it is a basic human need. I suppose it all depends on how you define “luxury”, but it seems to me that humans do instinctively need luxury in some form in order to lead a physically and mentally healthy life.

If luxury is defined as something inessential but enjoyable, then almost anything in our contemporary environment could be considered a luxury. We could certainly survive without our electronic gadgets, although I sometimes question the extent to which they are enjoyable enough to be called “luxuries”. We could survive without 95% of our clothing, increasing to 100% in summer or a tropical environment. We could survive without hot showers, shampoo, or even running water. Plenty of people do. We could survive without music, literature, philosophy, beautiful design, and perfume, although this would reduce us to the most abject level of Puritanism. Most of the things that fill our lives would be considered luxuries in some context.

In the animal kingdom, you see many examples of what could be considered desire for luxury. Birds build “luxurious” nests to make their lives more comfortable, lining them with soft materials and sometimes decorating them with shiny things. Dogs roll in materials with scents that they find pleasant. Chimps like to get a nice, relaxing grooming treatment from one of their buddies.

I can imagine that humans have been finding ways to devise luxuries for as long as the species has existed, making unnecessary but pleasant vocalizations and beating out pleasant rhythms on found objects, getting a de-lousing or massage from a friend, rubbing themselves with aromatic leaves, and choosing the firewood that smells best when burned. Come to think of it, fire is itself a luxury. We don’t have to be warm, clean, and well-fed to survive, but it makes us a lot healthier in every respect and helps ensure the survival of the species. Evolution has built into our natures a need for comfort and pleasure. Why fight it?

Of course, once the basic luxuries are in place and we no longer have to worry about where our next meal is coming from or whether we’re going to freeze in the winter, the search for luxury still goes on, eventually culminating in an economy where “luxury” is decoupled from comfort or pleasure and associated with high cost or exclusivity. I think it’s worthwhile to step back sometimes and think about what truly gives us pleasure and what simply causes our hunter-gatherer brains to experience a dopamine rush when the pursued object (or a facsimile of it) is obtained or displayed, even if it’s useless to us or requires more outlay of resources and/or maintenance than it gives back in pleasure.

The start of a new year is a good time to think about where to draw the line between real luxuries (maybe some good perfume!) and artificially created desires for “luxury” items (a ride in this ridiculous looking vehicle?).

["luxury" item photos from retailers' advertisements; idealized "caveman" drawing by Margaret McIntyre, around 1920]

Monday, January 2, 2012


As promised, here’s my amaretto walnut fudge recipe, which can be adapted as an anything-fudge recipe. I always thought making fudge was profoundly mysterious and terribly time-consuming, but was recently disabused of this notion when I decided to make it myself. My husband loves the amaretto fudge made by a company at the Seattle Center called “Seattle Fudge”, and recently decided that he wanted to have some sent by mail order to certain of his relatives. Well, to make a long story short, he checked out prices and found that it would be ridiculously expensive not just to have it shipped, but to buy the fudge itself in the necessary quantities. Of course with this challenge, I had to try making fudge. Of course, I had to consult multiple recipes and make my own version, full of nuts, which he doesn’t like in his fudge. But if it’s going to be given away, who cares? At least the nuts provide some real nutrition along with the massive amounts of sugar.

Now, to make the short story even shorter, here’s my recipe for amaretto-walnut fudge along with commentary.

2.75 cups of regular old white sugar
1 cup regular old half and half (the high-fat real milk stuff that’s used in coffee)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate (4 squares of the standard US package of “baking chocolate")
3 tablespoons butter (please use real butter, not the artificial stuff!)
1 tablespoon corn syrup (yep, the evil high-fructose corn syrup, in the US sold as “Karo”. For you chemists out there, the purpose of the HFCS is to prevent too much crystallization of the sugar)
0.25 cup amaretto (or a tablespoon or so of almond extract, which is what I suspect Seattle Fudge uses, judging by taste comparison)
1 tbsp vanilla or almond extract, extra amaretto, (and/or a splash of rum, or any other flavoring of your choice)
As many nuts or other inclusions as you want (or none, if that’s your choice). I use an almost equal ratio of nuts to fudge, but that is extreme.

An ordinary saucepan and stirring spoon
A wide, flat dish or pan greased with butter

Mix the sugar, chocolate, half and half, 1.5 tablespoons butter, amaretto, and corn syrup together in the saucepan and heat on medium heat. Stir the mixture occasionally. When the chocolate melts, it will look like it’s not mixing with the other stuff, but that’s OK. It will merge into the whole by the end of the process.

When the mixture starts to boil, let it boil on medium heat for about 3 minutes or until it threatens to spill over the sides of the pan, whichever comes first. Immediately reduce the heat to low and let the mixture quietly bubble away. [NB: I have a gas stove, so have good control over the heat. If you have an electric stove, you may have problems reducing the heat quickly enough at this stage.]

Now comes the part that requires some patience, but not work. You just have to let the mixture cook until it thickens. Really, it’s that simple. Recipes will all tell you that you need a “candy thermometer”, whatever that is. You don’t. They will tell you that you need to stir a lot. You don’t. They will tell you that you need to be hyper-vigilant about when the mix reaches an exact, critical, stage in order for the fudge to turn out right. You don’t. There’s a nice wide time window for those of us who go off and read, write, or filter perfume while we cook. Just find something else to do and check in every so often to see how the cooking process is going. Stir a little to reassure yourself that nothing is sticking or burning. When the mixture looks like it’s getting thicker, part of the checking should involve dropping a small drop of the mixture into a cup of cold water. If it spreads out and disintegrates, it’s not ready. If it stays together in a nice round ball, it is ready.

Once the mixture is thick enough, remove it from the heat, add the extra 1.5 tablespoons butter, stir it up, and let it sit until it starts forming a skin on top. At this point, most recipes will tell you that you have to beat and beat it. You don’t. Just stir it from time to time until it starts to have a matte look instead of shiny. You probably don’t even need to stir it, but stirring is a way of checking on its status.

This is the stage at which you add the vanilla, extra alcoholic (or other) flavorings, nuts or other inclusions, mix it up, pour or pack it into the greased dish, and smooth it out. Voila. You have fudge. It’s best to let it sit for a few hours before cutting it into squares. There’s no issue of delayed gratification since you can scrape out what’s left in the saucepan and eat it.

This recipe makes a lot of fudge, especially if you bulk it up with nuts, so be prepared to store it for a few weeks worth of snacks, or give some away.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Now that the fireworks have been shot off, the champagne drunk, the garbage thrown out, and the old year has slid off into the archives, it’s time to look forward to the new one - and what a lot there is to look forward to! Everyone is probably busy with their own plans for the new year, so I’m going to keep this post short and to the point.

As the days get longer, here’s wishing everyone a bright, happy, and prosperous year.