Flocking To The Fudge Capital
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Tomorrow isn't just Father's Day. It's also National Fudge Day if that didn't come up on your calendar. By most accounts, the first batch of fudge was cooked up in Baltimore in the 1880s, but Mackinac Island in northern Michigan is considered the modern day fudge capital of America.
Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta reports.
RICK PLUTA, BYLINE: There aren't many ways to get to Mackinac Island but most people take the ferry. Once they get to the island, there are no cars or trucks allowed. People get around on foot, bicycle or horse-drawn taxis. The island has a year-'round population of 500 people who live in its cottages and lakefront mansions. In the summertime, 15,000 people visit every day.
Tourists up here are commonly known as fudgies because they buy a lot of it. There are more than a dozen fudge shops on tiny Mackinac Island alone and any one of them can sell 1,000 pounds of fudge in a day. Janet Snider and her daughter Madison are examining rows of fudge.
JANET SNIDER: Which one do you like? Do you want the Rocky Road? Is that your favorite?
PLUTA: Island-wide, the favorite is chocolate, concocted here at Ryba's Fudge by fudge maker, Ed Turbin.
ED TURBIN: We start with the basic ingredients, the sugar and the corn syrup and the cream and the chocolate and we blend those all together and we cook them in the big copper kettle up to 232 degrees.
PLUTA: The mixture is then poured onto a marble slab and Ed Turbin goes to work mixing, twisting and flipping the fudge, lifting it into the air and slapping it down. Tourists stop to watch.
TURBIN: The all ask the same questions, but they don't know that the last person asked the same question, so it's all new to them. So I treat every one of them like it's the first time.
PLUTA: So what are the questions?
TURBIN: Do you ever get it on the floor? Do your arms get tired? How long have you been doing this?
PLUTA: So let me ask, do you ever get it on the floor?
PLUTA: Do your arms get tired?
TURBIN: All the time. They're tired right now.
PLUTA: And how long have you been doing this?
TURBIN: For 31 years.
PHIL PORTER: What's unique about Mackinac fudge is the way it's made on the marble slabs, large batches at a time in a very dramatic process.
PLUTA: Phil Porter wrote a short history of Mackinac's fudge business. He says candy has been a popular souvenir here since the island became a tourist destination in the late 1800s.
PORTER: And one of the things that people did on vacation back then was that they liked to enjoy candy. Today, we accept candy as an everyday phenomenon. Back then it was a treat that you did on vacation.
PLUTA: By the 1920s, fudge shops lined the streets of Mackinac's downtown. Electric fans pushed the smell into the streets. On a warm summer day, the smell of hot fudge cooking wafts from the shops and combines with what the horse's leave in the streets to make a visit to Mackinac Island a unique olfactory experience. For NPR News, I'm Rick Pluta.
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