Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fruitcake Weather and Christmas Memories

Christmas is always about past and present. Today’s celebrations are inextricably linked to the sights, sounds, smells and people of bygone holidays.

Every yuletide, my brothers and I recall the Goodyear Christmas Album – received as a “premium” at the local tire store – which was the musical accompaniment to our holidays when we were young.  I can still hear Robert Goulet crooning “Do You Hear What I Hear?”      

I can look at this year’s Christmas tree and touch the very first Christmas ornaments my Mom and Dad gave me for the tree in my first apartment. 
And, then there’s the visions of sugar plums - the baking starts early, always grounded in delicious memories – Mom’s Angel Food Cake, Aunt Greta’s Stollen, Zany’s Cinnamon Buns or Nana’s Sand Cookies.  

And, one can never forget the visits from holiday spirits. 
I was not familiar with Truman Capote’s short memoir, “A Christmas Memory,” but saw it performed as a musical in early December at the Irish Repertory Theater in New York City. It is a story from Truman’s childhood in the South, when he was known as “Buddy.” He grew up living with an elderly distant cousin named Sook, whom he describes as his best friend and “still a child.”  
Every year, Cousin Sook would look out the window on a cold, clear day in November and say, “It’s fruitcake weather.”  Thus began the annual ritual of baking dozens of fruitcakes to give as gifts to friends, family and even celebrities.  The story is filled with the wonder of a youngster embracing the rituals and magic of the Christmas holidays. I’m intrigued by the notion of a fruitcake tradition, and I decide to give it a try.

It’s not quite fruitcake weather, but the blustery rain is good weather for ducks. Early Saturday, I shop for ingredients. While Buddy and Sook nearly exhaust their funds buying ingredients, they would have been shocked at today’s prices for dried fruit. 
They frugally gather pecans off the ground, a wise strategy as in our era, pecan halves are running $16.99 a pound. 
In the story, Sook and Buddy approach the local bootlegger for their whisky, an essential ingredient in the fruitcake. With no local bootlegger in sight, I consider using one of our fine Long Island local whiskeys, but Truman was a Southerner, so Jack Daniels seems like the obvious choice.  Fortunately, Jack has a recipe for Classic Christmas Fruitcake, too. 
Besides, Jack and I have had a long association.  
The aromas of fruit, orange and whisky fill the house, and I am reminded of the people and pleasures that have graced my many Christmases.   
When their cakes are complete – thirty-one in total – Buddy and Sook have a mad moment and drink the remaining whisky (Buddy is seven years old).  My three cakes are just fine for my purposes and it’s a little early in the day for me for a nip, so I’m perfectly happy with the spirited aroma.
Now wrapped in whisky soaked cheesecloth, these little beauties are tucked away in the refrigerator ready to make some new holiday memories come December 25th.  
Happy Christmas to all, and happy memories past and present.  

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved  


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I well remember Robert Goulet's "Do You Hear What I Hear?”, but I'm not familiar with Truman Capote's Christmas Memory. It's an adorable story and it rings true of the wonderful great Southern story tellers, with always a bit of moonshine thrown in somewhere.

Merry Christmas T.W.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Wishing you a happy and delicious holiday!

Gloria Baker said...

Merry Christmas TW !
Happy and blessings Christmas!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Wishing you all the best this Christmas, T. W. Fruitcake is part of my holiday ritual so I hope you will enjoy yours. I'll have my first slice this Christmas eve.

~~louise~~ said...

What an enlightening post, T.W. I too remember Robert Goulet's rendition of "Do You Hear What I Hear." It has been a very long time since I've heard his name no less a song he crooned so well:)

I'm not familiar with this Truman Capote memoir. It sounds like the perfect read for this time of year in between baking well lit fruitcakes of course:)

I'm feeling a bit melancholy also this Christmas T.W. I'm not sure why. I'm thinking, dare I say, I would prefer snow to this rain we've been having. Snow has a way of lifting the fog and I'm feeling a bit foggy this holiday season. Of course, it is Christmas Eve so the nips are not helping:)

Cheers T.W! And a very Merry Christmas to You and Yours. May your holidays be filled with Magical moments and Joyous memories past, present and future:)

veron said...

I remember when my mom used to make fruit cakes. Hope you had a great Christmas, and have a fantastic New Year!!

Anonymous said...

What a fun post, dear friend! Your Christmas cakes look very delicious & inviting too!

I hope you celebrated a lovely Christmas & Inwish you a fabulous, healthy & culinary 2015!!!! 😋😋

Barbara said...

I've read the Capote your Christmas post, T.W.
Used to make fruit cake and gave it away as gifts. Nothing smells better than pouring the booze over a warm cake! I haven't made it in years, but this year made some fruit cake cookies that were a big hit.
Wishing you the best for 2015!

~~louise~~ said...

Hi T.W! I'm having an early cocktail "as we speak" and wanted to drop by to wish You and Yours a Happy, Healthy and Fulfilling New Year!!! May all your aspirations for 2015 bring you joy and happiness. Cheers!!!

~~louise~~ said...

Me again, lol...Can you hear me??? This time I'm singing Happy Birthday in my very bestest Betty Boop voice:)

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear T.W.
Happy Birthday to you.
Boop Boo Be Doop:)

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Louise - thanks for the lovely rendition and the good wishes!!

laura luciano said...

Beautifully Shared. Cheers to you. I am a bit late, but not so to wish you a Happy New Year. We are still in January and I am sure a fruit cake or two may be around for the super bowl! xx

~~louise~~ said...

Top of the morning to you T.W! Just hopping on by to wish you a Happy First Day of Spring and a spectacular year at Restoration Farm!!!