Photo- Linda Seccaspina
I swear my Grandmother Knight made 40 pounds of fruitcake for Christmas every year. She always gave them to friends and family, and last I heard no one had ever made a doorstop out of them. My Grandmother’s fruitcakes were amazing– or so the people of Cowansville said– I just never touched them. The fruitcake and I never shared an ounce of chemistry, and still don’t.
Some of the South Street neighbours said her fruitcakes were dense, “powerful” creations with candied red and green cherries, pineapple, raisins, spices and walnuts. While Grampy and I watched Lawrence Welk the first Saturday night of November Mary Louise Deller Knight was stuffing fruits and nuts down the mouth of her meat grinder. Then the mixture, which seemed to have its own heartbeat at this point, was poured into loaf pans.
The best part of the recipe according to my Grandfather was the “soaking of the cakes” in powerful bourbon and wrapped in cheesecloth for a week, or was it three? No one was really counting, and I was always fearful that someone was going to strike a match in the basement near those fruitcakes and we would all be goners. By Christmas they were nicely ‘pickled,’ –able to survive quite a lot, and even be around Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones long after everything else disappears post-apocalypse.
Fruitcake seems to be one of those foods that you really, really love, or you really, really hate. Did you know fruitcake can age 25 years and still be eaten as long as it contains the proper preservatives and is stored in an airtight container? Do you believe that? I am personally having trouble with that information. Would this be Fruitcake Fake News?
In 1983 author Russell Baker wrote an article claiming to be in possession of a fruitcake that a long-dead relative had baked in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington. As the story goes the president allegedly sent it back with a note explaining that it was “unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter.” Still, the strangest element of the story was yet to come: Baker and his relatives were still gathering each year to saw off a tiny morsel of the fruitcake that they would then divide and enjoy. Had it by this time turned into a feral fruitcake?
So, should we be friends with fruitcake? I know by this point you might be a tad curious to what my Grandmother’s recipe was. Heck, you might even want her fruitcake recipe. Unfortunately, my mouth is zipped tight! In fact I am not allowed to divulge her recipe, as sadly, those are the terms of the contract the family signed with the concrete block firm.
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)