A Sentiment

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The 109 Year Old Fruitcake

Yum...fruitcake one of my favorite things about the holidays. Years ago, right about now, I would be collecting containers of candied fruit...raisins, currants, cherries, pineapple, citron and nuts. I bought these items over a couple of months, so it didn't add too much to my grocery bill at one time. Just before Thanksgiving, I would have all my ingredients gathered and I would take the huge soup kettle down from the shelf and start adding the ingredients for my fruitcakes. My son John, loved to help me mix this mixture. He would sit on the table and try to stir it with a long wooden spoon. He wouldn't taste it, however, because he didn't like it. I had pans lined up on the counter lined with greased brown paper. The house smelled heavenly while they were baking.....like when you bake ginger cookies. I sometimes tripled the recipe, so I could have some for gifts. I only gave it to people who I know loved fruitcake. Mine would have brandy in them and were wrapped with cheesecloth soaked in brandy. When they came out of the oven, they were cooled and removed from the pans....wrapped in cheesecloth soaked in brandy and put away in the basement until Christmas.
I have heard all kinds of funny things about fruitcake. Especially the one Johnny Carson talked about each year. Here is the story of the 109 Year Old Fruitcake...
The 109 Year Old Fruitcake
The Ford family's favorite heirloom is small, brown and hard as a rock. It smells funny—like moldy rum—and it wouldn't sell for much, if anything. "After you've seen it a couple times," admits Dorothy Ford, who dusts it periodically, "it isn't anything special." It is, however, almost surely one of a kind, and the Fords take pride in that. Their heirloom is a 109-year-old fruitcake.

Like many an ancient treasure, this one comes with a story. Late in 1878 Fidelia Ford, 66, a Berkey, Ohio, farmer's wife, baked her customary holiday fruitcake and set it aside to age until the following Thanksgiving. But Fidelia died before the big day rolled around, and her family hadn't the heart to consume her handiwork without her. They felt that way the next year too, and the next, until, instead of a mere dessert, the Fords had a legacy on their hands.

Today's custodians of the cake are Morgan Ford, 67, a retired mechanical engineer, and his wife, Dorothy, 59; they inherited the edible artifact 35 years ago from Morgan's dad, Lyman, Fidelia's grandson. The cake resides in a glass compote dish in a china cabinet in the Fords' Tecumseh, Mich., home, sometimes appearing as a dining-table centerpiece on holidays. Morgan and Dorothy's granddaughter, Sarah, 8, finds the cake totally "yucky," but older relatives show more respect. "We joke that we have a 100-year-old fruitcake in the family, and it's not my father," says Sarah's mother, Sue Durkee. "But it's a tie to the past, and it's neat to have." Says her brother, Jim, who is the fruitcake's heir apparent: "When I was growing up, I didn't even tell my best friend about it. Now I feel proud."

Only once in this century has the heirloom's peaceful existence been threatened. One day in 1966, Morgan's Uncle Amos, 86—two years younger than the fruitcake—came over with a peculiar look in his eye. Recalls Morgan: "He said, 'It's a dirty shame nobody ever tasted Grandma's cake—mind if'n I try it?' I thought he was kidding, because he was a joker. But he got out his jackknife and whittled off a piece. He chewed it a bit, and it sounded kinda crunchy. He never said a word."

Uncle Amos passed on two years later, still uncommunicative about the taste, but the Fords see no reason why the cake shouldn't go on forever. "Fidelia wasn't very good-looking—in fact, she was pretty homely," says Morgan. "But she sure knew how to bake a cake."
Balisha

3 comments:

acorn hollow said...

I am old enough to remember johnny carson talking about that. My grandmother made wonderful fruit cake it was so moist and yummy
I have never made it because my family did not like it.
thanks for reminding me of one of my chrismtas memories.
Cathy

Zoey said...

Cute story. I think fruitcake gets a bad rap. I happen to be one of those who enjoy fruitcake.

Jean said...

I never did understand what people had against fruitcake. Good fruitcake! I love it! Many of the cake in England are fruitcakes.