I believe in fruitcake. To many, fruitcake is the subject of holiday jokes. Not to me.
Sometime between 35 and 40 years ago, I started making the family fruitcake.
The recipe was from my Grandmother Ballmer. I don’t know if it originated with her or her mother. No one can tell me. Her three sons (including my father) have all passed away, and her daughter is in memory fog. Both my mother and my aunt made fruitcake every December. The aroma permeated the house and signified the beginning of the Christmas season.
In December, I visit my mother in Tucson before Christmas. I take small fruitcakes to my mother, brother, and aunt. My aunt often doesn’t remember my name. Once, she said, “I know you were named after my father (that’s true), but I can’t remember your name and I can’t call you ‘Dad’”. Then she laughed just like she used to when I was a child. She had a wonderful sense of humor and used to love to laugh. Now, most of her memories are lost; so far she remembers the fruitcake and that mother used to make it.
I remember my mother making fruitcake. She says it was a lot of work to make. In those days, she had to pit and chop the sticky whole dates. Today, I buy bags of chopped dates. It takes about 40 minutes to make. Baking it takes over two hours, but that’s the good part.
That’s when the aroma wafts through the house, and I sit down with a cup of coffee and my memories. I remember how my grandparents came to visit every Christmas. My grandfather dressed up as Santa Claus. “Santa” came to our house on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day he visited my cousins’ house. Once, I recognized his voice and said, “I know who you are”. My grandfather asked who I thought he was. I became afraid that if I said “You’re Pops” I might insult Santa Claus (even then I knew that you don’t want to insult Santa!). I safely replied, “You’re Santa”. I don’t know how many years he wore that Santa suit, but my brother and cousins all have memories of Santa Claus visiting our homes.
Now, my first grandchild is on the way. I don’t expect my daughter, Brooke, to make fruitcake for Christmas. Neither she nor her twin brother, George, cares for it. But maybe their sister, Becky, will carry on the family tradition. She likes fruitcake.
Memories are imbedded in our old family recipes. Digging out the ink-smeared and batter-splattered index cards and then fading into your memories as you measure, stir, pour, and then lick the bowl is all part of our past…for my family it’s why I believe in fruitcake.
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