Food has a funny way of connecting us to the past. I remember spending the night with my grandmother and my great-aunt Lillian, better known as Sissu, when my parents were out of town. They always made a special dinner for my sisters and me – usually fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, green beans and homemade rolls. When I walked into the house and smelled that fried chicken, I knew the meal would end with ice cream and chocolate sauce made specifically by Sissu.
Sometimes simple is best. Sissu wisely knew that a little chocolate sauce could make a bad day seem better and turn a good day into a great one. Anything from a straight-A report card to a job promotion was celebrated with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Christmas was made more festive by drizzling this velvety sauce on peppermint ice cream. When I graduated from high school, my Grandmother and Sissu gave a luncheon for my friends and me, and you know what we had for dessert!
Born in 1896, Sissu and my grandmother called each other “sista”, pronounced by my young mother as “Sissu.” She was a sweet and gentle soul who loved planting day lilies, completing really difficult crossword puzzles, and listening to opera music on her radio. She was a huge fan of the Atlanta Braves and could recite all the players’ names and hometowns. Sissu lost her husband after WWI and never had children of her own. Our loving and supportive aunt valued family, the Presbyterian Church, and tradition. She lived in Tuscaloosa and took in University of Alabama students as boarders. When she got older, she sold her house and moved to Mobile to live with my grandmother. They were total opposites – my grandmother was very social and kept busy all the time with bridge, church, meetings and travel. Sissu was more of a homebody but a constant and calm presence in my life. When I had my first home after college, Sissu gave me a small silver service (coffee pot, sugar bowl and creamer) on a silver tray. I still have it and love it. It has been on display in the dining room of every home I’ve ever lived in and reminds me of her daily.
Sissu’s special sauce was made with love. Whenever I am making it, I can almost hear the creak of Sissu’s rocking chair on the sunporch. It’s a wonderful memory.
Our family has always loved entertaining and celebrating with homemade specialties from the kitchen. My mother’s cheese wafers were loved by all and transitioned from her kitchen into the slice-and-bake appetizer sold today as Mamie’s Famous Cheese Wafers, found in grocery freezers throughout the country. While Sissu’s chocolate sauce recipe has never made the leap to grocery shelves, it only takes a few minutes of your time to make this delicious sauce and transform plain vanilla ice cream, cake or fruit into an elegant dessert worthy of any dinner party.
SISSU’S CHOCOLATE FUDGE SAUCE
The ingredients for this sauce are readily available in most kitchens, and this treasured family recipe is an easy and reliable go-to dessert. Chocoholics of all ages appreciate the rich flavor and ease of preparation.
1 Cup sugar
2 heaping T cocoa
½ Cup water
½ stick butter
Pinch of salt
1 t vanilla
Mix the sugar, cocoa, water, butter and salt together in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir until butter melts, bring to a boil and cook about one minute. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Serve hot or cold.
Submitted by Barkley Shreve