When fruitcake isn’t funny.

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I was all suited up and ready to step out the screen door to take a walk, when it started to rain. Really hard. It was 45 degrees out and a big fat worm was slithering across the sidewalk. I reminded myself that, yes, it was Michigan and it was the 27th of December. The weather these days is as nutty as a fruitcake.

Oh yeah – it is “National Fruitcake Day” by the way in case you missed the memo.

Fruitcake gets a bad rap sometimes. It is the bane of many Christmas jokes, like using a fruitcake for a doorstop or wondering how many times you can re-gift the original fruitcake and it is still edible.

And, of course, it’s a great way to describe people and things that are, well … not quite right.

I have never really had a yen for fruitcake. I was more of a “texture-eater” and a nice crunchy cookie would satisfy me much more than a moist and gooey piece of fruitcake. But, I was always polite when offered a slice, and took it and ate it slowly and daintily until the last crumb was gone … preferably with something handy to wash it down with ‘cuz sometimes dry fruitcake could choke a horse.

I really think fruitcake is more of a treat in Canada than over here in the States, and to tell you the truth, living part of my life in Canada, I don’t ever remember fruitcake being something that you joked about. At a Canadian wedding, fruitcake used to be the wedding cake of choice. The top layer of the wedding cake was saved in the freezer to savor at the christening of your first child. I know my parents did that custom as well. Even the Royal Couple had a traditional English fruitcake for their wedding cake.

Growing up, whenever I spent time at my grandmother’s house, if you were going to top off your dinner with something sweet, you’d better believe it was going to be fruitcake. My grandmother was not much of a cook (I took after her in that regard, believe me) and so you would never find batches of cookies cooling on the countertop or packed in some huge ceramic jar that sat in the corner. But what you would find at Nanny’s house was a fruitcake … or two … or three, or maybe even a half-dozen at any given time.

My grandmother was born and raised in Ariss, Ontario which was a tiny farming community near the city of Guelph. She was the only one of the nine siblings to leave Ariss when she went to work in the big city of Toronto at a chocolate factory. She met and married my grandfather who worked in a rubber factory. When her family came to town to visit, they always brought a fruitcake, whether it was Christmastime, or not. Apparently, it was always the right time for fruitcake.

My grandmother had an unheated back kitchen and in the Winter you could hang meat there as it was so cold. So, at any given time, there was always a collection of fruitcakes reposing back there. Some were in fancy tins, some marzipan coatings on top (therefore already hard as a rock) and others in a box bearing the manufacturer’s name. No matter who came to visit my grandmother, they were offered a cup of tea and the usual fare – a ham sandwich and a slice of fruitcake.

My mother similarly liked fruitcake, but she didn’t want to have a one or two-pounder hanging around since she was the only one who really liked it. So, every year, I would buy her the smallest fruitcake available – an 8-ounce “bar” which she’d enjoy at the holidays, then wrap it up and pull it out and have a slice occasionally throughout the rest of the year. It didn’t dry out or get moldy. It was a little too blah for my liking. I didn’t share her enthusiasm for it at all, and, unlike a traditional fruitcake, the brand I got her was not soaked through and through with brandy then covered with a cloth to keep it moist.

In December 2009, the last Christmas before my mom passed away, she was confined to bed. I bought the usual holiday mini-fruitcake at the grocery store, announced its arrival and put it in the fridge. A good friend of my boss named David owned a German store named R. Hirt at Eastern Market. He dropped by the office to give me a goodie basket and a poinsettia for home every Christmas. I was not working on site at the time, so he dropped off his usual basket of goodies, which included a long Christmas stollen and a huge babka. Since both were fruity-type breads, my mom said “okay, we’ll eat David’s treats up but you’ll save my fruitcake and I’ll have it later” … “no problem mom” I said, and I pushed it to the back of the fridge.

Unfortunately “later” never came as my mom passed away a few weeks after that.

Over the next month or so, in clearing out some items in the fridge that my mom liked but were not necessarily my favorite foods, mostly pickles and relishes and such, I came across the fruitcake. My heart did a flip-flop as the words “you’ll save my fruitcake and I’ll have it later” filled me with profound sadness. I left it there at the back of the fridge and told myself “later Linda – you’ll deal with it later” and put it out of my mind.

Now, that skinny, fruit-laden bar certainly has not taken up much space and doesn’t bother anyone languishing at the back of the fridge.

But I know it is there.

Well, okay – you can call me sentimental, but every year at Christmastime I reach back in the fridge and take out that little fruitcake. I hold it up to the light and look through the package – 100% okay. Back into the fridge it goes, standing up in its little corner.

So this year, I picked it up and did the usual inspection all around and put it back. I totally forgot about our power outage right after Labor Day and my fridge was warm when the power came on 24 hours later. At that time I pitched everything in the fridge and freezer since the storm was Friday evening and I didn’t get any ice to preserve my food. The fruitcake was behind a low, flat Tupperware container, so I never thought about it.

Christmas Eve 2014, the weather folks called for high winds and possible power outages … belatedly I remembered that fruitcake.

So, herein lies the dilemma – it may no longer be fit to eat (not that I intended to eat it), but does it stay or does it go?

After five long years, I’ve decided perhaps it is time to part with that fruitcake – I think my mom would understand.

“When someone is in your heart, they’re never truly gone. They can come back to you, even at unlikely times.” ~Mitch Albom (from “For One More Day”)

About lindasschaub

This is my first blog and I enjoy writing each and every post immensely. I started a walking regimen in 2011 and decided to create a blog as a means of memorializing the people, places and things I see on my daily walks. I have always enjoyed people watching, and so my blog is peppered with folks I meet, or reflections of characters I have known through the years. Often something piques my interest, or evokes a pleasant memory from my memory bank, and this becomes a “slice o’ life” blog post that day. I respect and appreciate nature and my interaction with Mother Nature’s gifts is also a common theme. Sometimes the most-ordinary items become fodder for points to ponder over and touch upon. My career has been in the legal field and I have been a legal secretary for over three decades, primarily working in downtown Detroit, and now working from my home. I graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in print journalism in 1978, although I’ve never worked in that field. I like to think this blog is the writer in me finally emerging!! Walking and writing have met and shaken hands and the creative juices are flowing once again in Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy – hope you think so too.
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4 Responses to When fruitcake isn’t funny.

  1. Marge Aubin says:

    Leave it! It’s part of the Holiday and the reason for that little peice of fruitcake sitting there is your Mom is there with you so just for a little while more keep it. I do like a little fruitcake but sometimes it can choke a horse.

  2. lindasschaub says:

    Okay Marge – I didn’t really have the heart to get rid of it – I cleared all the stuff out of the fridge and just didn’t look behind that Tupperware. It is low and flat – a Tupperware pie keeper and I always have it filled with stuff – sometimes cups of yogurt, sometimes broccoli or coleslaw bags. Never thought of it – I clean the fridge like I clean the house. 🙂 Remembered it when I was stewing about the possible power outage the other day. I’ve not looked at it. It stays.

  3. cswilson66 says:

    Every year my mom made mincemeat cookies, as well as a myriad of other cakes, candies and cookies for the holidays. She passed in 1988. On the high shelf that I can’t reach without a tall step stool, still sits the last jar of mincemeat she bought. It is somehow comforting to see that jar whenever I open the cupboard. I would never use it. But it is a small piece of Mom.

    • lindasschaub says:

      Wow – I’ll bet this post brought back some memories for you didn’t it? My mom also made mincemeat every year. She used to buy the mincemeat in the jar as well and would take half out in the Summertime and put some rum in there. She didn’t drink, but did add a big slash to the two bottles containing that mincemeat. By the time she took it out at Christmas to make her tarts, it smelled mighty strong. I could not now see or eat a mincemeat tart without remembering my mom. I have decided to leave the fruitcake in the fridge. My friend and neighbor replied here last night to say I should leave it in as a memory of my mom …. just like you have done.

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