Fruitcake Weather

Truman Capote and his cousin Sook

I got an e-mail from a friend gently inquiring about fruitcake. Some people think of fruitcake as holiday doorstops, but they haven’t tasted mine. I really can’t boast or really call the fruitcake “mine” because it’s truly Aunt Pearl’s Fruitcake. I never had the pleasure of meeting Pearl. She was the relative of a friend of mine, and every Christmas I would find myself sniffing around their house to see if the mysterious Aunt had forwarded a loaf of heaven their way. Eventually Aunt Pearl wrote down her recipe and my friend gave me a copy. The sad fact is that we are no longer in touch. In fact, we had a bad break, but I do think of Leesa and thank her every time I make a batch of fruitcakes.

Es and I read Truman Capote’s beautiful “A Christmas Memory,” which describes his elderly cousin declaring: "Oh my,....it's fruitcake weather!" I don’t think it was actually fruitcake weather yesterday, but that didn’t stop me from getting all Christmassy in the head. There was a pocket of free time and fruitcakes to be made. We assembled all of the ingredients, cracked a few eggs (The Girl's first on her own!) and at the end of the day had the great satisfaction of seeing the beautiful bumpy loaves lined up on the kitchen counter. Capote’s cousin, according to the story, sent one of hers to Eleanor Roosevelt. I can’t think of a politician today worthy of these cakes, but I suppose if Eleanor Roosevelt were around I’d offer her one.

For years I never shared the recipe, being faithful to Aunt Pearl and keeping the fruitcake as a special holiday gift. Then one year I acquiesced. I gave the recipe to a friend and then…a while later our friendship collapsed. Isn’t that interesting? Is the recipe jinxed? I’m not going to mess with it; I’m keeping it for myself, and if you’re lucky you’re on my list for a little fruitcake this year.


Pasta and Prose

Here's a book recommendation for young readers and people who just like good books: Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, by Sharon Creech. It's a charming story about friendship, love, family, and food. I read it aloud to my 6th grade classes, and they were enthralled the by story and the complicated emotions. Our family listened to it on tape over a long car ride this summer, and there were parts that were so beautiful they made me cry. Granted, I cry easily, and no, I wasn't driving.

Most of the story takes place in the kitchen, and Creech lovingly describes Granny Torrelli making a chicken and pasta soup, homemade cavatelli, meatballs, and spareribs. I've never made homemade pasta, but this book got me as far as buying the semolina flour. It's still in my cupboard, but hey, that's the closest I've ever been to making homemade pasta. Pretty inspiring, hmmm? There's also a simple salad of oranges, olive oil, salt and pepper, and parsley. Doesn't that sound refreshing and easy?