Wednesday, December 1, 2010


"Well, 'they say' you don't have to answer a Christmas card -- see – till next Christmas. It is more in the nature of a gift, so to speak, tho I've always hated not to do so. My way is to get a supply of New Year cards; then if I'm caught a few lines on the card fixes it or the card alone, see!" Ina Dobson, January 1935

When I was growing up, my mother always provided some sort of advent program for me – counting the 24 days to Christmas from December 1. Usually it was a purchased advent calendar, and our favorites told a little Christmas story. When Christmas was over, Mother would carefully close the little paper "doors" and put the calendar away in a box. I have quite a collection of old advent calendars.

These days I build my own advent projects. This year my focus is old Christmas cards and family recipes – a (mostly) daily blog entry until Christmas. Most of the cards I'll post are those received by my dad in 1946. He evidently read them, slipped them back into their envelopes, and when the holiday was over, put the box away where I eventually found it. I don't know if there was a reason he saved the cards or if it just happened. For years, I toyed with the idea of tossing them, but an antique dealer suggested they had been kept this long, why not continue to keep them? And that's the way we collect useless things. Anyway, that's the history of most of the cards I'll show here, but I also have a few others – Grandma Ina's keepsakes or in some cases, my own. Every year I save a few cards.

And so, today's entries are two postcards, both sent to Grandma Ina from her mother, Lucy Dickson. The first card is undated, the second from 1915. I suspect these lovely sentiments were Ina's only gifts from her mother on the occasions in question.

And the first recipe, entitled "My Favorite Fruitcake," I found in my mother's oldest recipe file. My mother was one who truly loved fruitcake, and her favorite was a cake of mostly candied fruit with just enough batter to hold the fruit together. I can assure you that well before Thanksgiving the fruitcake had been made and stashed somewhere to age. I remember one year when Mother let Daddy poured brandy over the fruitcake, but that didn't happen in later years.

MY FAVORITE CANDIED FRUITCAKE [written by my mother, Dorothy Dobson]

Sift 2 cups sifted flour, 2 tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt into a large bowl. Add one pound candied cherries, one pound candied pineapple coarsely cut, 1 ¼ pound pitted dates coarsely cut, ½ pound citron. Mix well with hands to coat each piece of fruit with flour.

Beat 4 eggs until frothy. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar. Add to fruit and mix well. With hands mix 2 cups pecans into half of the fruit mixture. Bake one cake with nuts, one without.

Grease and line two loaf pans with brown paper. Grease paper. Divide batter into two pans and press down firmly with fingers. Re-arrange fruit if necessary to fill corners.

Bake in slow oven (275) about 1 ¼ hours. Let cake stand in pans about 5 minutes. Turn out on rack, pull off brown paper. Cool.

A dear friend at church reminisced once that as a child in the '30s he had been assigned to carry a Christmas gift of his mother's fruitcake to various neighbors. He finished by saying he thought it was a gift of dubious value because he didn't think it tasted very good.

Do you like fruitcake? Is it part of your holiday tradition? KW


drMolly, the BeanQueen said...

Kathy, I love those cards. My mum alwyas made fruitcake with that disgusting candied fruit (the citron and orange peel). Mostly everyone liked it & she would make hardsauce of butter and powdered sugar to go with it. I would eat just a tiny bit; BUT then as an adult I 'unvented' the recipe - it is one of the very little cake & lots of fruit variety, too - by replacing all of the awful candied fruit with my own dried fruit. It is absolutely the greatest fruitcake I have ever had and many who have tried it tell me that is the first fruitcake they have ever liked.
Ah those holiday memories!

Chuck said...

I seem to be one of very few in the family that really likes fruitcake. I used to get one (a commercially baked one) each Christmas, but the family never liked them, so I gave up. I still like them.

debdog42 said...

A few years in my childhood my mom made fruitcake because my dad liked them. I detest them because of the fruit. I have never liked anything that even reminded me of jelly beans, gum drops or anything "gummy". I don't even liked maraschino cherries. Anyway, I would take a slice once in a while and pick out all of the fruit and eat just the cake and nuts! HAHAHA!! Needless to say I've never made a fruit cake!

Kathy said...

My opinion is that candied fruit is really candy. There's a richness to it that people can either tolerate or not. Good for you, Dr. Molly, for developing a spin on a traditional favorite.

And Chuck, I'm sorry that you are deprived, though maybe it's best. Perhaps you'll discover a solution as we move along.

Mike said...

I like traditional fruit cake ok in moderation but I do like the no-bake better.

Chris said...

Well, we all know I love fruitcake, but I've never made it. And probably never will. Cookies, now that's another story. :-) (two batches down)