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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14 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.

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  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.

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  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.

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    • 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 splash 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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  4. I’m sorry to hear about your mom Linda….that must have been a very sad time for you, and a sad reminder every Christmas time. I know I am very lucky to have my mom still at 92 when so few of my friends do, and try to treasure every day. My mom used to make fruitcake every year, then every 2nd year and now I think it’s been 3 years….I think there is one tucked away on a shelve in the fridge which we meant to check out this year, but then my neighbour gave me a small piece of hers today, so I may leave it there for another year! I don’t know how long you can keep fruitcake either? Last year we were invited over for supper at my mom’s next door neighbour, and she had the best fruitcake I have ever tasted, so I have been meaning to ask her for the recipe in case we decide to make it again. Usually we just use the old family recipe, but hers was really different, it was a light cake, not dark. I guess you are either a fruitcake lover or not!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lindasschaub says:

      Thank you Joan – it was a very sad time and I just felt I could not get rid of that fruitcake because I heard my mom’s voice and I felt as though I had betrayed her. So, it is still there, despite the power outages … I would not eat it. I just Googled and found out how long fruitcake can last – wow! And I know if you freeze it, it will be okay.
      http://mentalfloss.com/article/515789/why-do-fruitcakes-last-so-long
      Ours was a light batter fruitcake and just a small one – we always got just a little bar-style cake. We used to buy a Christmas stollen at the German restaurant .. the owner had been a pastry chef for years and he used to take orders for the large size or just had lots of the smaller size, so we would get a couple of the smaller ones so we put one in the freezer. The stollens tend to be a little on the dry side, so we would put some butter on the slices. See, this is something else we had in common as my mom would have been 92 as well … she was thirty years older than me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks your sharing that about your mom….as I said in my Dickens blog, it is a sad time of year for many people. I can’t say Christmas was ever really a favourite time of year for me, mostly because of work and family dynamics, but there are parts of it I like. You should keep your fruitcake. That article was interesting, I had no idea you could keep it that long! I will leave my 3 yr old unwrapped one in the fridge until next year as we have the neighbours to eat….but we just add a splash of rum to ours, and don’t soak it or add brandy every few days as my neighbour does which does make her cake moister. I may blog on fruitcake next year, but this afternoon I plan on making my rum cake…..and going for a walk while the weather holds!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Christmas is a sad time for me – no relatives and Christmas Day was when my father announced he didn’t want to be here anymore – no love lost with him, but that scene on Christmas morning will always come to mind, though it was in 1983. Already 35 years … sometimes I think I will or should write about it, because I really only mention my mom or my grandmother and I do mention my father when it pertains to something that happened when I was younger. He did put me through college/university, but then when I couldn’t find a job, said that he could have bought himself a Thunderbird car or a fur coat for my mother. That was not kind. My mom made the Bacardi rum pound cake, maybe for Christmas – I’m thinking not as she loved her little tarts … so can’t imagine her making it then as well. Maybe for my father’s birthday? It’s been a while since I had it, though one of my co-workers at the Firm used to make two Bacardi rum cakes, one for the 10th floor, one for the 11th floor – one was a yellow pound cake and the other was a chocolate pound cake. My mom’s mincemeat was the bottles of None Such mincemeat and was the moist variety … I know they have a dry variety. So she halved them and put rum into the mixture around July and put it in the fridge … they were potent come Christmas time! Hope you got out for a walk – it was very cold and it started doing some kind of sleety thing with pellets bouncing onto my coat, maybe graupel, but otherwise okay, but the windchill was 19 degrees which is -7 celsius. Brrr!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh dear…that would be a bad Xmas memory. My dad has been dead 22 years and we miss him. He died of cancer when he was 70. It’s a couple of my siblings who cause my mom grief – we don’t spend Xmas together anymore, and we used to have good times together when the grandkids were young, but like I said in my post you can’t control other people’s behaviour and you can’t chose your family. Of course I am the only one who looks after my mom, but I don’t mind, as we have always been close. I am lucky to still have her, but I know that someday I will probably be alone at Xmas, and I am prepared for that…..I will spend it watching movies and reading a good book. I think it is a sad time of year for many people…

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      • lindasschaub says:

        Yes, my mom and her brother were estranged for many years … I never grew up knowing my cousins and they were drinking at my grandmother’s house the night before the funeral … he and his kids, who were all adults, were drinking heavily and acting the idiot (as my mom would say about acting foolish) … that is why we did not go back to the house after the funeral … we should have gotten a motel room, but we had not had the news on in the morning before the funeral and it had been beautiful weather. I wrote to him to tell him my mother had passed away … I don’t know why I wasted my time and effort, but thought I am taking the high road in this relationship – no response. They sent Christmas cards to one another for decades – it said nothing in either card and I said to my mom – why bother? She said “it is what you do.” So that year my mom passed away I got a Christmas card addressed just to me. I shook my head, ripped it up and put it back into the envelope, taped it over carefully. Wrote “Moved, no forwarding address” on the side of the envelope and dropped it in a mailbox in another city. I never heard from him again – I sometimes think I should say the story about my father – this year would be a good opportunity as it is a big milestone, 35 years, yet I hate to sully my blog posts with his name. I do know he is alive as of earlier this year – a friend had a professional genealogist check it out. He would be 92 now if he is still alive … this was earlier in the year that I found out the info. He lives in Germany and has remarried.

        Liked by 1 person

      • At least he is too far away to have any contact with and that was a smart thing to do – to return his card that way. I know Keep the Peace was the motto in my family for decades, but it just gets to the point where it’s too fake and phony to play happy families anymore. I have two siblings who haven’t spoken to my mother in years, my brother for ten years and my sister for three….they were never nice to me either but I always basically ignored….and my mother is the nicest kindest person you could ever meet. Of course that is hurtful for my mother, but it is actually easier in some ways as at her age she is too old to handle all the drama involved with both of them. My other brother lives out west so while he does come home once in a while we don’t see him very often. It’s too bad you can’t pick your family eh? So we will have a quiet and peaceful Xmas. and I would like to wish you the same, I’m not likely to be back on WPress until Thurs. as my mom does not have internet. Stay busy, and keep writing your wonderful blog!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        You’re right Joan – I am sorry I didn’t know you would not be back online, or I would have sent my Christmas wishes to both of you. Yes, unfortunately we cannot pick our family members, but in your case, you were the best of the bunch. I felt my mom deserved much better treatment than she got from my father and I sought to make it up to her in her remaining years after he left following that fateful Christmas Day. I was very close to my mom, just as you are with your mom, so we could just forget about the other dynamics in the whole entire family, immediate and extended. This is the time of year when it is all about family, and people zip clear across the country to spend a few days with their family … you just can’t dwell on it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well we got through Christmas, not without a bit of phone call drama…..thank god it only comes once a year! Re “the best of the bunch” my gramma used to tell me that! Now, I have to get caught up on laundry and blogging……I did manage to sneak in a 20-30 minute walk even over Xmas as the weather has been so good!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        That’s great Joan – now you have a year til it happens again. I am glad your weather was good, not only for traveling, but for walking – our weather has been excellent here. Right now it is raining and will likely rain through the night but we’ll hit 55 degrees F (12 C) if not higher, so I’ve gotten lots of walking in … we’ve had a nicer December than our November for sure. And, I thought of you with an article I heard about fruitcake on my radio station yesterday – I Googled and found the story, so next year take pictures of your fruitcake in progress and afterward and write a blog post about it: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fruitcake-the-classic-festive-christmas-dessert-is-the-perfect-energy-food/

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