Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Christmas Feeling

“Oh my! It’s fruitcake weather, Buddy.”
~ A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

Our house is unusually quiet today while Babe recovers from serious but incredibly successful surgery, one that saved his life. He sleeps a lot. After a certain age recovery is no walk in the park. 

Emotionally, I swing between an overwhelming feeling of relief that he was snoring next to me when I woke up this morning, and genuine joy that we have been granted additional time together.

The antique clock on the mantle is flanked on both sides by the traditional manger scene that was carefully boxed up until earlier today. Hoping to festive things up around here, I pruned the magnolia tree down to a nub and quietly began to decorate for Christmas. That old clock seems to be ticking even louder than normal. But then, this house of ours is unusually quiet today.

I stand at the window and look out at a leafless, birdless winter morning while two words thread through my mind: Fruitcake weather. Those words naturally segue to a story written in 1963 by Truman Capote.

I have penned many Christmas stories in the past because Capote inspired me to capture my seasonal thoughts on paper. His haunting tale of baking fruitcakes with his cousin, Sook, is the story that motivated me to write my own holiday memories of growing up in the South.

Today, I look up at a gray sky and wonder if it will snow. I look at the bare trees in our yard amazed at finding things I was unable to see before winter snatched away the greeness. I gaze down at the love of my life as he sleeps and heals, and when I do I experience an overpowering need to do something that will make him smile again.
The leafless, birdless trees sway gently in the cold winter breeze as if singing: “Oh my! It’s fruitcake weather.”

That’s what I can do! I can buy candied cherries and pineapple and pecans and walnuts and chop, mix and bake. The fragrance of a baking fruitcake will waft through each room of this unusually quiet house of ours and while it does, maybe it will drown out time as it steadily ticks away.

Mama’s White Fruitcake

1             Cup Sugar
2             Cups Flour
5             Eggs
2             Sticks Butter
1             Teaspoon Baking Powder
½            Teaspoon Salt
1             1-ounce Bottle Vanilla
1             Teaspoon  to ½ ounce Almond Flavoring (depending on your love of Almond)
1             Pound Candied Cherries
1             Pound Candied Pineapple
4             Cups Chopped Nuts (mix walnuts and pecans if both are available)

Chop fruit and nuts and dredge with 3 Tablespoons of flour.

In a separate bowl:
Cream sugar and butter until fluffy and add well-beaten eggs, one at a time
Slowly add remaining flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla and almond flavorings.

Combine batter and fruit/nut mixture and mix it all up with your hands, squeezing to get the batter evenly distributed.
Pour into a greased tube pan and bake for three hours at 250 degrees.

If you have a big pressure cooker, steam the cake for one hour, then cook in the oven for an additional hour at 325 degrees.

If not, place a pan of water under the tube pan for the entire cooking time.

Cool on cake rack.

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