Ma Carol’s Hot Fudge Sauce

It was a little difficult to integrate the new psychiatry knowledge I procured at this weekend’s conference seeing as how I have no patients of my own with whom to practice, lowly medical student that I am. So I decided to practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) on myself, focusing on my baking behavior, primarily. Now, I’m a CBT novice. Literally just learned the methodology for the first time yesterday. Here it goes.


Mood check. It is what it is. On the day I made this dish, I felt a little ill and mopey at the start. Hence, why I thought making chocolate sauce would be a good idea in the first place.

Bridge from previous session.  Yesterday, I made fun of Mother Bunn Yum Yum and her sourdough waffles. Today I’ve got a recipe from a wholly different kind of mother. One that I know and can vouch for personally—Ma Carol.

Agenda setting. Today I’m going to describe how I made Ma Carol’s famous fudge sauce and trace the relative anguish attached to my perception of its being “not the same.”

Homework review. Yes, I completed the Chocolate Fudge Sauce as assigned.

Discussion of agenda. I made this fudge recipe:

Ma Carol’s Hot Fudge Sauce:
1 stick of butter
4 squares of block chocolate (recipe called for all 4 to be Unsweetened Bakers, but I used 2 Unsweetened and 2 Semi-sweet)
Melt together in pan … stirring constantly
Add 2 C of powdered sugar
1  5 oz can of condensed milk (small can)
Stir constantly to avoid burning and sticking.  It will get “smooth” and “silky” in about 5 minutes of stirring and slight bubbling. Left over sauce can be put in a plastic container …. refrigerate … and warm in micro … up to a minute or so depending on amount in container.  Watch.

Socratic questioning. Why did I make this? I recently visited Carol and Bruce Erickson, loving grandparently folks to anyone who crosses their Chicago threshold and bares feet on their carpet. Within seconds of arriving, Carol necessarily asks if we feel like ice cream and chocolate fudge sauce, and of course, we always are. This last visit in May, I asked Carol if she would teach me to make it.

Identify unhelpful beliefs.

It won’t be as good as Carol’s if I try to make it myself.

I will probably burn the chocolate. Or use the wrong type of milk.

Process Timeline (Chain Analysis). I read the recipe and realized I did not have enough butter, about half the amount, precisely.

Automatic thought.

Need to ask Janelle for butter tonight.

It is late and Janelle worked a 12-hour shift today.

Also, I just borrowed several sticks of butter from her a week ago. She probably hasn’t even been to the grocery store since I last cleaned her out.

Identify unhelpful beliefs.

Janelle won’t want to loan me butter.

I don’t deserve free butter from anyone.

Janelle will resent me for even asking for another stick of butter.

I am a butter hoarder.

Socratic questioning. Why do you think Janelle won’t loan you butter or that you don’t deserve it?

Because I don’t want to abuse a friendship. And, you’re right, on second thought, I do deserve butter.

Practice skills of distress tolerance.

Just call her and ask for help. Reach out without requirement.

I asked Janelle and she said that absolutely I could have some butter, come on over and get it! When I arrive, I told her the butter was for some chocolate fudge sauce. She asked me to tell her the recipe. She says, “Cut the butter.” Her mother always taught her to cut the butter recommended by recipes in half. “You don’t need all that butter,” she says.

Automatic thought.

Who will be more mad, Janelle or Ma Carol, if I take the other’s advice?

Less butter is more healthy and I am a medical student.

Carol worships butter, it is the Scandinavian way. Maybe Janelle is right.

Janelle and I proceed to entertain ourselves with colorful vignettes from the week, two bowls of ice cream and several episodes of Between Two Ferns.

Automatic thought.

Don’t tell KP you already had ice cream without him before you made the chocolate sauce.

I return to my kitchen feeling uplifted by the ice cream and Janelle’s friendship. I have decided, in loyalty to her, to cut the butter in half. I begin to melt the butter and chocolate together.

Identify unhelpful beliefs.

Cooking, in itself, is not a good enough use of time. Multi-task, multi-task!

I burn the chocolate while multi-tasking. The chocolate sauce starts to look crumbly and not at all smooth and creamy like Ma Carol’s. In a moment of surrender, I add the remaining butter called for in the recipe.

Automatic thought.

Don’t tell Janelle you didn’t take her butter advice.

I keep stirring and things smooth out.

Homework assignment. Eat and enjoy. Image

Feedback. Although the chocolate sauce was nowhere near as good as Carol’s, this is something that actually pleased me—to fall short of Carol—because it makes our visits with her and Bruce all the more special. I can’t wait to see them again, and Janelle, you may have been right. Next time I will try less butter. But thank you for donating so many sticks to the cause already. And for your friendship.

Also, conclusion: Chocolate sauce, even poorly made, may very well be its own sufficient therapy.

Another conclusion: Things do smooth out–keep stirring.

End of my first CBT session! And, after my first fudge sauce session, I feel a little bit more like Willy Wonka. Willemina.


One thought on “Ma Carol’s Hot Fudge Sauce

Leave a Reply