The fruitcake gathering--or is it a gathering of fruitcakes?--at the beginning of the day
How often can eight sisters gather for a day of baking? If it's my family, it only happens once a year, and even at that it's difficult to get all eight of us together at the same time. But this year we all traveled to Julie's house to share the ritual begun by our mother when we were children--making fruitcakes and stirring in our wishes.
The recipe is one we decided, after much searching of Mom's recipe files, to be the one. The cookbook that holds it is in Theresa's keeping-- it's old and tattered and has no cover. The recipe itself is varied every year by what we have brought to make it, and it even varies from sister to sister as we stir up our bowls.
Theresa shows niece Amanda and great-niece Alyssa how to mix the cake
Some of us use blackstrap molasses, for instance, others use sorghum. some use dark brown sugar and some use light; some like currants, others don't. I added black walnuts this year instead of the traditional English walnuts.
My fruit and nut mixture after flouring
You can see what Theresa thinks about me mixing the fruit with my hands! Hey, they were clean!
There are two ingredients that all the cakes have in common--talk and laughter. This year's funniest moment? For me it was when one sister asked another, "Did you put on makeup today?" And the reply: "Well, yeah! Sue's probably going to put this on the blog and I'm not going to be on the Internet without makeup!"
Or maybe it was when I tasted the Cream Sherry and someone said "take a picture of that for the blog!" So I obligingly posed with the cup for Judy, who suddenly realized she'd been accidentally videotaping the whole thing--so she's got a good blackmail tape if I put a photo of her that she doesn't like on here :0
Then there were the 12 times we tried to get one good photo of us as a group. There was always one doing something--laughing, making a weird face, etc. We took several photos and uploaded them to Julie's computer, only to find that we had not one good shot in the bunch. So we tried again. Did we do any better? I'm not sure. This is the best one I had on my camera. What a bunch of clowns!
A few other female relatives joined us--a couple sisters-in-law (and Theresa surprised one with a birthday cake and we all celebrated), a couple daughters-in-law, and a few grandchildren. A few brothers-in-law and one brother also were there, but stayed pretty far from the kitchen! There must have been over twenty of us gathered together to share this longtime tradition.
In the end, I made 13 little cakes and one regular sized loaf of fruitcake. Mary took the bigger loaf home with her in trade for the banana bread she'd made, and I have to admit one of my little cakes didn't make it to the getting-soaked-with-brandy stage last night! Even unsoaked, it was delicious.
It was hard to say goodbye to everyone, knowing that I won't see most of them again until the family reunion in May. Julie made us all so welcome in her pretty home in the Virginia mountains, and her husband Jackie proved that men can cook, and cook well. We feasted, there's no other word for it.
When it's time to taste the cakes at Christmas, they will be flavored with the laughter, love and memories that went into making them. And that is a tradition worth keeping, even if it means driving 600 miles to be part of it.
Finally! A fairly decent photo, even if a little blurry. In order left to right, front row: Julie, Lizzie, Cathy. Back row, left to right: Maggie, Theresa, Judy, me and Mary. Age order? Me, Judy, Mary, Theresa, Maggie, Lizzie, Cathy, and Julie is the youngest.