I grew up in a tourist-laden town in sunny Florida. Its main downtown tourist street was full of fudge shops. I recently traveled to a popular small town in wintry Canada. Its main downtown tourist street was littered with fudge shops. What is it with tourism and fudge?

Travel to any small town popular with tourists, from Myrtle Beach to Santa Fe, and you are sure to find fudge. Not just a piece of a fudge, or a few individual servings of fudge piled among other desserts in a corner of a grocery store, but an entire establishment dedicated to selling fudge. A "fudgery," as they say. A store that, yes, may offer a few glazed nuts, and quirky t-shirts, and candy-covered apples, but which primarily pays its rent and pays its employees and turns a profit solely by selling the public fudge. Imagine, if you will, the sheer tonnage of fudge that it is necessary to sell per year in order to make such a business a going concern. It boggles the mind.

Tourists like to cut loose a bit. Relax on their vacations. For the young, this means drinking themselves into a blackout and grasping blindly for anonymous sex; for the more mature, it means eating fattening foods. There is no easier respite for harried parents than to duck into a nice air-conditioned Sweet Shoppe, slide into a booth next to walls festooned with faux-Americana, and shove ice cream down their blabbering childrens' gullets. For this reason, we can see why ice cream shops flourish in tourist towns. Ice cream is a treat that still, for all of its sugar and calories, falls within the realm of normal food.

But fudge? Fudge is just not something that anyone eats on a regular basis. Fudge is essentially a melted glob of chocolate, sugar, butter, and cream. It is to food what heroin is to Tylenol. One can only ingest, at most, a two-cubic-inch chunk of fudge before slipping into a diabetic coma. Even at $17 per pound, it seems to defy common sense that even a popular town's supply of tourists could buy the stuff at a clip that would support erecting an entire store dedicated to cooking and selling it. Ice cream parlors? Sure. Bakeries? Absolutely. T-shirt shops, knick-knack stores, and Old Timey Foto Funneries? All things that a tourist town can reasonably be expected to contain. But fudge? It is not even a niche product; it is a niche dessert. Nobody buys fudge at the grocery store. Nobody brings fudge to parties. Yet take a group of normal people to a picturesque small town, and they must have access to fudge at all hours of the day. How could even tour buses full of hungry Americans create a sufficient demand morning, noon, and night for such a thing?

And yet they do. They build the fudgeries, and they come. In Key West, and in Bangor, and in Austin, there is fudge. In Orlando, and in Vegas, and in Waterbury, there is fudge. In Gatlinburg, there is fudge. In Madison, there is fudge. In Taos, there is fudge.

In Alaska? Fudge.

Why all the fudge?

[Photo: Flickr]