Many candies are strongly associated with particular regions: maple sugar in New England, saltwater taffy on the coast, pralines in New Orleans. Fudge, on the other hand, has spread far beyond its birthplace of New York and can be found all over America, from sea to shining sea. You can eat fudge at chocolate shops, theme parks, church potlucks–I’ve even heard rumors that there are companies selling it online.
It’s safe to say that fudge is equally beloved throughout the country, but there’s a little island in northern Michigan that takes great pride in its special devotion to fudge. Mackinac Island has been known for its outstanding fudge for more than a century. This rich history started when Harry Murdick and his son opened a candy shop in 1887. They put their marble cooling slabs in the front window and used fans to blow the irresistible aroma of fresh fudge into the streets. Imitators soon followed, but Murdick’s was the only shop to survive the Great Depression. The 1950s brought a new wave of tourists and new prosperity to Mackinac Island. Today there are no fewer than fifteen stores producing their own version, which seems like a lot when you consider that the island’s year-round population is less than 500 people, but they’re feeding the insatiable appetites of the 15,000 tourists who visit the island every day in the summer. In Michigan these tourists are often called “Fudgies,” for obvious reasons. It’s not unusual for friends to request fudge when they find out someone is planning a trip to Mackinac Island, nor is it unusual to debate which of the many shops does it best. True fudge fanatics visit during the annual Mackinac Island Fudge Festival in August, when they can enjoy special events and a surprising variety of fudge-inspired cocktails. Fudge is popular everywhere, but Mackinac Island definitely takes it to a new level.