Saturday, November 28, 2020

Fruitcake

An aunt of my ex-husband's looked me up on facebook through the kids. She's a fiercely independent woman. Don't get me wrong, I am too,  but she's a lot sharper and angrier than I have a tolerance for.  I accepted the friend request, but really didn't hear much from her until things got politically ugly on facebook. We are of a like mind on that subject anyway, so I suppose that kindled some warm feelings in her heart. We communicated back and forth a bit on facebook.

Now that the holiday season is approaching, one of my big regrets is that somehow in the tumult that was the crashing and burning of a marriage, a cross country move, the struggle to reset life for me and three children, I managed to lose something near and dear to my heart: Grandma Violet's fruitcake recipe. 

Before you say how much you hate fruitcake, let me say that you haven't tasted Grandma Violet's fruitcake. Seriously: Best. Fruitcake. Ever.

Every year, I pulled her recipe out of the box, unfolded it and set to work. I made fruitcakes and we gave those fruitcakes as gifts and everyone loved those fruitcakes, even if they thought they wouldn't. 

Anyways, fast forward, through a divorce and even though I vowed 'never again', it did happen again. Remarried to a quiet man, life settled down once more. For our first Christmas, I got my recipe box out and pulled out Grandma Violet's fruitcake recipe. I was sad to discover that somehow, I only had the first page of it. The rest of it was gone. I went through everything. I didn't have it. 

I grieved the loss of that recipe. 

By then dear Grandma Violet was in the throes of dementia. I wrote her regularly just as I always had since I married her grandson, but it became an issue when my ex remarried. When she heard that he and his wife were coming to visit, she got very excited. She couldn't wait for that visit. Except that when they walked in, she got very upset. "Where's Debby? They said that Debby was coming..." and she didn't stop looking for me for their whole visit. 

At this point, she was living with her daughter (that fiercely independent aunt) and the aunt was mortified at her mother's behavior. It also distressed the new wife a great deal. I thought they were all being a little silly, because after all, it was dementia. It was not like the poor thing could help it, but I took a deep breath and I stepped back. I stopped writing. It was simply adding to her confusion. 

She's gone now. She's been gone for many years, but I can tell you that she was a dear, dear woman. I loved her. 

 At the factory where I worked, Christmas season was our peak season and we worked mandatory overtime in the weeks before Christmas. Lots and lots of overtime. This year I am not working, and for the first time in many years, I have the time to devote to Christmas baking and Christmas cards and to Christmas decorating, and to Christmas wrapping...all of that Christmas stuff.  I am  greatly looking forward to it, and all these years later, once again that long lost fruitcake recipe popped into my mind. 

So I messaged that aunt that I was now in contact with, and asked if she happened to have that recipe. 

"Absolutely NOT!" and what followed was a bitter recounting of being forced to eat foods that she didn't like, and how she hated that fruitcake. 

I typed back carefully, "I'm sorry to stir up bad memories."

Another blast about how she would never subject her grandchildren to the torment she was subjected to. 

It's hard to have such very different memories of a person, but there you are. I had a rough childhood myself, so I respect that what people see from the outside doesn't always reflect the reality of what happens behind closed doors. I sort of reiterated my earlier comments and dropped the subject all together, figuring that the fruitcake was just a memory.

I have that one page still, neatly folded and still in my recipe box because it is in Grandma Violet's handwriting.

Last night when my daughter was here, her father called to wish her and Don and William a happy Thanksgiving. From where I was washing dishes, I said, "Hey, ask him if, by chance, he happens to have Grandma Violet's fruitcake recipe..."

And the reply came: he used to, but it wasn't the complete recipe. Part of it was missing...

I could've cried. 

14 comments:

  1. A bitter/sweet memory for you. Does that mean that he has the other half of your recipe? and is he willing to send it to you?

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  2. I believe that 'he used to' means that he tossed it. But I located my part and had my daughter give a call to find out. I haven't heard back.

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  3. I love fruitcake, even the ones other people don't like. I am almost crying with you because when you first mentioned the recipe, I thought, "Maybe she will share it with me!". My mom made a fruitcake for Christmas for years that was made differently than most: she began by stirring up a spice cake, baking and cooking it, and then crumbling it up in a bowl. I loved that fruitcake, although purists probably wouldn't. I make it once in awhile,, but nobody loves it as much as I, and I end up eating a whole four-pound fruitcake mostly by myself!

    We used to have Manor Bakery in this area: theirs was the best boughten fruitcake I ever tasted. Now it's only a memory. I've tried Costco fruitcake, but it's practically all fruit and no cake. I've ordered fruitcake from monasteries and other strange places, but none are like the old Manor fruitcakes..

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  4. I hope you’re putting your own special recipes in a book or some type of collection so they can be passed down to your children and grands. Just as that fruitcake recipe (even though you only have a portion of it) is a treasure, so yours will be.

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  5. My husband loved fruit cake, we usually had to buy them but he liked home made or purchased so we kept some in our freezer year around. After Christmas I would buy the ones he liked best cut them into nice size pieces, freeze it and if he wanted it for July 4 he had the cake.

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  6. Couldn't you just bake half a fruitcake?

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  7. That just might work, Tasker. I've been called half baked before...

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  8. I had the same thought as Joan -- maybe he has the second page!

    I wonder if you could Google fruitcake recipes and reconstruct the second page, which I'm guessing involves baking time and temp rather than all the ingredients -- which would be the unique part, it seems to me...?

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  9. My daughter decided to make a recipe from a cookery book at school. She carefully copied everything out into her file ready for the teacher to mark. The recipe was a flop because when she was writing out the recipe she inadvertently turned 2 pages. She had the ingredients for part of a recipe and the method for another. We still laugh about it now.

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  10. I suppose there was no chance that the part that he had was the part that you are missing.

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  11. It absolutely was the second page to that recipe. But you know what, peoples? Using Steve's suggestion, I did some matching work, and I found a recipe that mirrors the portion of what I have. I think that I'm going to try making a fruitcake this year. Not sure why this never occurred to me before.

    Thanks everyone. This is a really big deal to me.

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  12. I always hated my mum's Christmas cake - loved her fruit cake and we always wished she would just use that and not the tizzy one!

    I have her recipe - and another awesome one - tried a third on the weekend but I am afraid I left it in a draft while it was cooking and so dried on the outside. Its a good fruit cake, but I think the boiled one using pineapple remains the winner.

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  13. One of the first things I did after my mom died was to grab her all her recipes and make copies of the ones I cherished but didn't already have before they get lost. Some of them I still haven't found yet but haven't given up hope yet.

    I am an odd duck and always love eating fruitcake but because I always end up with lots of entire fruit cakes and am the only one who eats them, a lot still goes to waste.

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  14. Didn't see that coming. A heart breaker for sure.
    Hope it turns out for you!
    He remembered the part were he only had part of the recipe.
    If you put your part out here...maybe one of us has one to match.
    I have one I cut from a newspaper years ago and used it faithfully. It was a person in my small towns family recipe, would be glad to share with you.

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