Recently, a reader commented that she liked the recipes here, but what in the world did any of them have to do with the Peace Corps. Hmmmm. When I started this blog, I said I’d talk about food from around the world, while mostly I’ve written about food from, well, here.

So I’m introducing a new, global note, a little cultural currency with the cuisine: Where in the world did all the foodstuffs, spices, etc. come from that we now take for granted in our recipes and at our meals.

Even though the holiday season is over, Valentine’s Day is only a month away and this is one sweet recipe-White Chocolate Cranberry Walnut Fudge-that combines disparate ingredients from around the world in a global fusion we’ve come to expect.

Cranberries from New England. Walnuts from Asia, though three-quarters of our “English” walnuts - (more on that English aspect in a moment)-are produced in California. And when is a nut not a nut? When it’s a walnut. Finally, where did the concept of fudge come from? It’s the legacy of a sugary, milky Scottish confection called “tablet” first mentioned in The Household Book of Lady Grisell Baillie in the early 18th century. By the late 19th century, a Vassar college student, Emelyn Battersby Hartridge, in an 1886 letter wrote that a classmate’s cousin, who lived in Baltimore, Maryland, made fudge and sold it for 40 cents a pound. She got the recipe and made 30 pounds for Vassar Senior Auction. Sales took off. You can now find numerous Vassar fudge recipes on the internet.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia decades ago, one of the things that was a regular feature of our Peace Corps get-togethers in Ghion (aka Wolisso), the town where I was stationed, was fudge. We had limited ingredients, but there was always sugar, cocoa and tinned butter. So into a pot went those ingredients as we gathered for a meal. At its end one of the guys would beat the heck out of the shiny mixture until it was opaque and, voila, fudge.

It was on a New England holiday to see the foliage, the Massachusetts peninsula, Provincetown and the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port that my mother and I visited a cranberry cooperative and I first came across this confection. Along with books with illustrations explaining the difference between dry and wet harvesting (dry ones for those ruby fruits we see at holiday time in the plastic bags; wet ones for sauce and other cooked products) the gift shop sold wonderful white chocolate cranberry nut fudge.

The cranberry (originally called “craneberry” by the Pilgrims because the small, pink blossoms that appear in the spring resembled the head of the indigenous Sandhill crane), along with the blueberry and Concord grape, is one of North America’s three native fruits that are commercially grown, according to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association.
Cranberries are North America’s gift to the world; no where else on the planet are they grown.

Walnuts originated in Eastern Europe and central Asia. The walnuts we eat are Persian walnuts with thin shells and more meat and there are many Iranian recipes that include walnuts, from sweet to savory.

By the way, a walnut isn’t a true nut at all-just like a peanut isn’t a nut, but a legume. Botanically speaking, a walnut is a drupe, a fruit in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a pit with a seed inside. Everyone is familiar with peaches and cherries, but walnuts, almonds and pecans are drupes. We just eat the seed inside the pit instead of the fruit.

Herewith, a recipe that brings the world together in one sweet concoction:

• 12 oz white chocolate baking chips
• ½ tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup powdered sugar
• 3 oz softened cream cheese
• ½ cup Betty Crocker vanilla frosting
• 2/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
• ¾ cup walnuts
• ½ tsp grated lemon zest

Grease a 9″ x 9″ glass dish or line with tinfoil.
Blend cream cheese, powdered sugar and frosting together.
Melt white chocolate chips in saucepan over low heat or in the microwave. Add vanilla to the melted chips and quickly add mixture to the frosting-cream cheese mixture. Fold in cranberries, walnuts and lemon zest.

Spread in pan and chill in refrigerator until firm. Cut into squares. Place waxed paper between squares and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Melkam Megeb. Bon appetit. Buen provecho. Mànmàn chī! Guten Appetit! Dober tek! Selamat makan! Nush olsun! Svādiṣṭ khānā