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By Emily-Jane Hills Orford
I pulled out the top drawer next to the fridge where Mom stashed her recipes, mostly on notecards and random slips of papers, or the odd clippings from a magazine. It wasn’t a large drawer, so Mom didn’t have any other use for it other than to tuck away bits and pieces. And, it was close to the shelf that held her well-used recipe book collection. “What are you looking for?” Mom asked, coming in the kitchen as I sorted through the mess. Mom was organized. To a point. She knew where everything was. Well, sort of.
“I’m looking for something new and different to bake this Christmas,” I announced, still pulling out the bundles of papers and trying to make some sense of the order. There wasn’t any.
“What’s wrong with the cookies we always make?” Mom asked. She came to stand next to me as I continued my sorting. “Don’t lose anything?”
“Would you notice if I did?” I thought to myself. At least, I hoped I hadn’t spoken the thought out loud. Mom didn’t answer. She merely hovered.
“Shall I organize these for you?” I asked. She didn’t answer. I shrugged and carried on, stacking the random collection of recipes on the countertop above the drawer. I finally reached the bottom of the drawer. Making sure I had everything, I slid my hand to the very back and pulled out a folded, very worn sheet of paper. I carefully unfolded it, only to find most of the writing almost unreadable, washed away with time. The title at the top caught my eyes. “Chocolate Fingers,” I said out loud. “What are these? You’ve never made Chocolate Fingers.” I scanned the recipe. As best I could. The ingredients at least were discernable.
Mom finally spoke. “I haven’t made those in years. Much too sweet.”
“But chocolate. A layer of chocolate cookie mix on the bottom, what looks like a custardy icing in the middle and pure chocolate on top. Oh boy! My brothers will love this!”
“Love what?” As if sensing something edible, one of my brothers entered the kitchen just at that moment.
“Chocolate Fingers!” I announced, holding up the fragile piece of paper as if the world could see.
“I won’t be eating my fingers. Chocolate or not.” And he stormed out the door, leaving Mom and I in a wave of giggles.
Taking the recipe from me, she nodded. “Go ahead. Make them. I think we have all the ingredients.”
And I did. Chocolate Fingers became a must make every Christmas after that. It was much later that I learned these Chocolate Fingers were really known as Nanaimo Bars. But those who knew me and knew my Chocolate Fingers agreed, since the chocolate layers covered one’s fingers with finger-licking good chocolate, my name was much better suited. Besides, I was once told by Nanaimo girl that my Chocolate Fingers definitely weren’t Nanaimo Bars. “They’re just not right,” she claimed. “It’s the bottom two layers that are all wrong.” I remembered the occasion, a Christmas gathering of friends. While the others were stunned at her outburst, everyone enjoyed the treats.
They were the, and will always be in my mind, Chocolate Fingers. And my recipe? A well-guarded family secret.
Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. In her most recent novels, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” and “Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure”, the author returns to her roots and the fond memories and dreams, growing up in a haunted old Victorian mansion in London. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca