Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, December 3, 2012

My Grandmother's Fruitcakes

1976, Columbia, MO
My mother, son, grandmother, self
No, my grandmother's fruitcakes were not her three grandsons--though opinions, naturally, differ.  I know that the middle child of the bunch was/is most definitely not a fruitcake--though opinions, naturally, differ.

3 Fruitcakes, 1949
My grandmother, born Alma Lanterman in Austintown, Ohio, December 1896 (on her father's farm--now gone), eventually married my grandfather, Edwin Osborn (from Jackson, Ohio, 1897), who became a preacher, then a seminary professor in Enid, Oklahoma, where his daughter, my mother, would meet my father ... and thus the Three Fruitcakes, Richard-Daniel-Davis, all born in the 1940s.

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother Osborn made fruitcakes for Christmas--not the dark, dank kind that you eventually throw out in March, untouched all those months.  Hers was a sort of white fruitcake--chock full-a nuts and dried fruit and cholesterol and calories--and finger-lickin' good.  When we moved from Oklahoma to Ohio in August, 1956, my mother began baking the fruitcakes, but, to be brutally honest (and since I'm fairly certain my mother will not read these words--not unless some cruel reader forwards them to her), my mom's were not quite so good.  They didn't always ... cohere, and she would serve them in pieces on our plates.  The taste and the color (and the cholesterol and the calories) were still there--but the ... look ... the texture.  Not quite right.

After Joyce and I married in December 1969, Mom passed the recipe along to us.  But I did not make any of the fruitcakes, not for quite a few years.  Grandma lived till 1978--and baked till the end.  And Mom was still making and serving the broken pieces of hers, and we were often home for the Holidays.  And, if not, Mom would mail us one.  In later years, each bite somehow brought a tear to my eye.  But that's what happens to Old Guys when they think about their mothers and their grandmothers and their youth--and their fruitcakey brothers.

But then Mom stopped making her fragile, frangible loaves, and I found the old recipe she'd given me--and took a whack at it myself.  Because I'd been a weekly bread-baker for more than thirty years at the time I started in on the fruitcakes, I was not "afraid" of them.  I just followed the recipe.  And they turned out fine.  (I cannot imagine what my mother did to make them want to disintegrate?  Too much of something?  Not enough of something else?  Perhaps the loaves are like, well, sons, and no matter how meticulously, even lovingly, you follow the recipe, they sometimes don't turn out so well?)

But it wasn't long before issues of Cholesterol emerged at my annual physical.  I did not want to take meds and keep eating the old ways, so Joyce and I altered our diets, exercised more, ate no foods (save fish and chicken) that carried cholesterol.  We used soy butter.  And canola oil.  And Egg Beaters.  And ... you know the drill, I'm sure.  Cheaper than Lipitor, that's for sure.  I really could not tell the difference in any of my baking, but maybe that was Wishful Thinking?

My mom, 93, took a fall a couple of weeks ago and is now in a nursing/rehab center that's part of the stages-of-care complex where she lives.  It's unlikely she'll be able to return to the "independent living" area where she was.  Assisting living is more likely.

For various unsavory reasons, we did not get out to Massachusetts to see her for Thanksgiving, though we'd been there to celebrate her 93rd birthday early in September.

Lately, though, my phone calls to her are worrisome.  She seems a little disoriented.  Depressed.  (Who wouldn't be?)  As if she's beginning to hear time's wingéd chariot hurrying near--and thinking, this time, that the sound's not all that bad.

So later this week, roads permitting, I will drive east to see her.  And I will take her a fruitcake.  They are baking as I type this.  The aroma permeates the house, sweetens the very air.

fruitcakes baking, 3 Dec 2012

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