Palabras Pintorescas - Starting the New Year with good ol’ fruitcake

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By Editha Bartley

Don’t look now, but ... there is a second chapter in the story / column I wrote about fruitcakes. Yes, I know some family members might call me the original fruitcake  because I write about such nonsensical things, but what do they know!

The day the fruitcake column was published,  my neighbors just down the road near Sapello appeared at my door with a real, packed-in-that-tin fruitcake, made by the monks at Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Va., no less.

I am so glad there are fruitcake bakers still baking these great cakes, and I am also glad I have friends that will share such treasurers with me.

Now the day I turned that fruitcake story into the Optic I realized I had not fully researched the availability of fruitcakes in this area.

My family knows where to go when one needs something that isn’t available in our big-box stores. That is our Midway gas station and grocery store in Sapello. So I knew Carlos and Orlando, the store owners, would have a fruitcake or two. Was I ever surprised to learn they didn’t have a fruitcake of any kind when I stopped in. Orlando said seasonal merchandise like that is hard to sell. Gosh, folks, it isn’t Christmas if you don’t have fruitcake somewhere, at least once.

Well, wouldn’t you know, my fellow columnist and writer, Art Trujillo, enters the fray, claiming there is only one fruitcake in the world, and he knows it is somewhere in Connecticut or Council Bluffs, Iowa, at the moment, traveling a very circuitous route around the world. And, Art put the fruit cake in the same category as Big Macs and Twinkies. What an insult! He thinks this cake will reach his house sometime in 2023, no less.

I learned how to make fruitcakes at a very young age. Our Valmora hospital nurse, Georgie, lived in my grandfather’s house there. Georgie made fruitcakes every end of October for her friends and my family. When that baking day came around, Georgie would go into our surgery room and bring back a huge stainless steel wash pan, bowl that was needed in surgery. She would carefully wash it again, then start dumping the necessary ingredients into this huge bowl.

I never saw a printed recipe for this. I think Georgie just made it up as she went along. I know a lot of my banty chicken eggs went into it, along with flour, sugar, and lots of that preserved fruit made for fruitcakes.

This conglomeration was so “doughy” for lack of another word, that it had to be stirred, mixed by hand and that’s where it came in handy. I was up to my elbows in good old fruitcake dough and loved every minute of it, of course.

Sweet brother Bill was too little to stir, but he could watch and lift a fingerful of dough out of the huge bowl when Georgie wasn’t looking. She baked these cakes in the many one-pound coffee cans she had saved just for this. (Remember those, Art? I know, this really does date me!)

And, I have read reviews touting margaritas, smoked salmon and dozens of other (no, make it thousands) foods and drinks that are supposed to be good for you. I’ve never read one or heard anyone praise the great health benefits of eating fruitcake, but I’ll bet it would stand up to that test as well. Fruitcake for New Years!

Wow! What a great way to start 2013.

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.