Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Lots of people don't like fruitcake. Just ask any random passer-by on the street. (You'll get a grimace, a snort.) There are myriads of fruitcake jokes and cartoons on the web. Here's one from one site:
TOP 10 USES FOR HOLIDAY FRUITCAKES
10. Use slices to balance that wobbly kitchen table.
9. Use instead of sand bags during El Nino.
8. Send to U.S. Air Force, let troops drop them.
7. Use as railroad ties.
6. Use as speed bumps to foil the neighborhood drag racers.
5. Collect ten and use them as bowling pins.
4. Use instead of cement shoes.
3. Save for next summer's garage sale.
2. Use slices in next skeet-shooting competition.
1. Two words "pin cushion."
And here's an older cartoon from B.C. comics ...
I have to confess that I don't like fruitcake, either--the dark, dank, greasy, heavy kind that's everywhere over the Holidays.
But there's one kind I love--one that I've had every Christmas, I think, since I was weaned. It's a light fruitcake (in color, in texture, in weight) that my grandmother used to make--and then my mother--and now I make them every year. I have an old recipe card in my mom's handwriting, and at the top it says: "AEO 1950s." "AEO" was my maternal grandmother: Alma E. Osborn (my middle name is her married name). So ... since the 1950s (early? late?) her fruitcake has been part of our traditions--the same for her steamed pudding, which we eat in our house every Christmas Day.
I say "her fruitcake," but, of course, I don't know where she got the recipe. She did a lot of cooking, but I don't really remember (or know) how much innovating she did. Did she get it from a magazine? A friend? I don't suppose I'll ever know.
What I do know is that it's a wonderful fruitcake--and that people who profess to hate fruitcake generally like Grandma's.
It's got in it all the good things that are bad for you: sugar (white and brown), butter (enough to stop a heart immediately), walnuts, candied fruit, maraschino cherries, white raisins ...
I've changed a few things--slightly--over the years. I NOW add some dried apricots (sliced)--because, well, I love them. I use soy butter and egg beaters (lowering the cholesterol count by a little).
For many years I used to make ten of them (in the small loaf pans), giving them to family and neighbors and friends. Keeping a few around to serve folks who show up around the Holidays--okay, and to consume voraciously on cold winter evenings. Hey, calories keep you warm, right?
My wife, Joyce, loves them as well. (I'll confess that we sometimes eat an entire one in a single disgusting sitting.) But our son doesn't really care for them (he's never liked baked goods with nuts in them--and may be the only non-allergic kid I've ever known who didn't/doesn't like peanut butter--peanut butter, the substance I carried between two slices of Wonder Bread every day throughout my school years, the substance I carried between two slices of homemade sourdough bread each day throughout my public school teaching career, the substance I ate every morning on a bagel at Saywell's (RIP) here in Hudson, the substance that Joyce and I will sometimes eat with a knife, right out of the jar, even now (Skippy Super Chunk). One of Dyer's Laws is this: If you don't have peanut butter in the house, you don't have any food.
I'm writing this today because I'm baking them today. I'm making only five this year. Takes too much energy to do more than that. I have a brother who's baking them now, too, so ... no need to be redundant.
The photo below shows how they turned out today ... Will let you know later how they taste!