In Search of Ancient Aliens. No- A 50 year old Fruitcake Recipe

Growing up, my parents had three holiday treat, cooking traditions – homemade Sicilian pizza, strufoli and this fruitcake. I make the pizzas every year, the strufoli is just too much damn work (I just learned in this process the oldest brother made it every year and never sent me any) but the fruitcake recipe was “lost”. On a lark, I asked my middle brother, Richard, who is the volunteer expert family archivist (he scanned and organized all family photos after my parents died – literally thousands of hours of work – thank you again) if he had the recipe. He said he didn’t have it on the computer, but maybe in the basement. After two days of searching- he FOUND it!!! Best Christmas present ever and I became so excited about trying to recreate this taste and smell experience from my childhood.

My parents made this amazing Fruitcake recipe every year at Christmas 50 years ago when I was a kid. When I say amazing, people who liked fruitcake said it was amazing. It made no fruitcake converts. I never remember somebody who hated fruitcake trying some and saying, “OMG- I like fruitcake NOW!” But as fruitcake goes, it was good. Moist, rich and a good jigger of rum was included in the baking and poured over it every other day for a week after baking.

So, I dutifully took the recipe list and made a shopping list -most were common items, self rising flour, sugar, spices. Two interesting learning items in what turned out to be an exercise in food archeology – 50 years ago you could by 8 ounces of “junior baby” food “prunes with tapioca”. Having not been down the baby food aisle in 35 years, first surprise- it’s in the pharmacy. That scared me a little. Why is baby food now with the drugs? Admittedly, the food selections were a little high in fruits. That’s a lot of Sugar but ok. Second, while you could get prunes (which I assume makes the cake more moist) none with tapioca. I had to google “Tapioca”. It’s actually a plant- like a starch- acts as a thickening agent. Why I wonder would you give a baby prunes- with a thickening agent. If this was a thing 50 years ago, this explains a lot about our current political environment. Also surprised that publix had candied fruit for fruitcakes. No citron though. Also had to google citron. Did not know that citron is the original citrus fruit from which all other citrus species came from. (I may have to do further research on that- it still seems like suspect info) Decided lemon peel would do. Amazed to be leaving store with all ingredients.

My parents made this case in a deep round smooth springform pan with a tube in the middle. So, I go to the Litchen works chain store thinking buying a pan and som Empty Tim’s will be a breeze. Nope. Nada. They had no tins. Salesperson shows me last 10 in, 2 inch tall spring form cake pan. Bought a center “hole” thing. Ordered a deeper pan and find from Amazon while still in store

On way out, salesperson asks if I found whatever else I needed and says yes. She leans over and in her best CIA whisper says, “that lady who wanted the springform was very angry you got it – she said she was in the store before you!” Wait. What? Is that a think now? Can I show up to target at 6 am when the store opens and park my ass in a folding chair by check out and ad folks come by pluck things from their cart saying , “I was in store before you!”. I told the sales person the grumpy lady should use Amazon like I did.

Final update coming soon- cooking the fruitcake”

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