December 11, 2013 - I walked into one of the financial institutions I bank with last Friday and saw an old friend. A fruitcake for sale. And, I remembered a column I wrote about these fruit cakes and said so. "Hey, I wrote about these five or so years ago." The teller smiled and tried to ignore my small talk (I have that affect on women.) When I got back to the office, I found it wasn't five or so years ago I wrote this fruit cake column. It was -- gulp -- written 11 Decembers ago!
I think it's time to bring it back!
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On a recent blustery day I stumbled into Lakes community Credit Union in Lake Orion. And, there up on the counter separating me from the teller chick, was a familiar white box. A box with the promise, "Baked in the deep south according to a famous old southern recipe."
That holiday favorite, the Claxton Bakery Fruitcake, was sitting pretty, in all its glory, begging to be bought.
"Do you actually sell these things?" I asked the teller-chick, Maureen to family and friends.
"Yeah. I'm gonna' buy one," she said and smiled.
My shock, which I thought was well concealed, must have been oozing through to my facial expression. Without prompting, Maureen added, "I don't eat fruit cake. I'm gonna' cut them up, shellac 'em and make them Christmas ornaments."
"Great, now can I draw some money out of my checking account and I'll get me and my dumb look out of your financial institution?"
Back in the car, I started to think. does anybody eat fruitcake? When you mention fruitcake, people get funny looks on their faces. Yet, they must be popular for something, there are a lot sold . . . so, I thought some more.
My top 10 things you can do with a fruitcake . . .
10. Give as a gift to that "special" somebody
9. Sell to somebody else
8. Wear around your neck while you sleep to fend off little fairies and whacked-out elves
7. Throw 'em in the back of the pickup for added weight during the winter driving season
6. Makes a great paperweight
5. Cut 'em up, shellac 'em, hook 'em and make Christmas decorations
4. Bomb shelter building material, would also serve as emergency food rations in case of the "big one."
3. Make it an anchor
2. Festive looking doorstop.
And the Number 1 thing I can do with a fruitcake is give it to my wife as a present.
Yep, it's true. I came home with a wad of cash in my pockets, this great idea for a column (making fun of fruitcake) and she tells me she loves the nutty, fruity goodness that is a fruitcake.
"Everybody jokes about them, but I never get one," she said, nearly putting a dagger in the back of this week's column. Nearly.
I was able to look inward and access my feelings. Taking shots at fruitcake was a go!
I did research on Claxton Bakery and fruitcakes in general. The recipe, "from the deep south," was created by an Italian immigrant, Savino Tos, who opened the Claxton Bakery in 1910, in Claxton, Georgia. The fruitcake of note was born when, in the fall, "Tos decided to capture the spirit of the season by offering a premium quality fruitcake, filled with nature's finest fruits and nuts."
In 1927, Tos hired an 11-year-old lad, Albert Parker. In 1945, Tos retired and sold the business to Al. According to legend, Al saw the writing on the wall when it came to the bakery business. Grocery stores were putting the hurt on the local baker. Al focused all his energy on one thing: fruitcake. And, in that first year, Al and a few workers baked 45,000 pounds of fruitcake.
Their 50,000 square foot bakery, now produces millions of pounds of fruitcake yearly. Claxton, GA, is now the Fruitcake Capital of the World, and over 1,000 service groups sell the fruitcake as a fund-raising project. Al ran the company until his death in 1995, at the age of 79. His four children now run the company.
As Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know the rest of the story . . ."
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And, from the internet, here's a fruitcake recipe:
1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 6 large eggs, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3 cups flour, sifted, 1/2 t. salt, 1 cup bourbon, 1 pound pecans, chopped ,3 cups white raisins (or use candied fruit) , 1 t. nutmeg. AND a very large bottle of bourbon whiskey.
First, sample the whiskey to check for quality. Assemble all of the ingredients. Check the whiskey again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat this step.
Turn on the electric mixer and beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar and cream until beat. Make sure the whiskey is still okay... try another cup. Turn off the mixer. Beat six leggs and add to the bowl, then chuck in the cup of dried flut. Mix on the tuner. Throw in two quarts of flour. Gradually pour in the cow. Add 2 dried anything.
If the fried druit gets struck in the beaters, pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the whiskey and check it again for tonsistency. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Who cares??? Check the whiskey again.
Now sift the nutmeg and strain your nuts. Add one table. And the spoon. Of whiskee. Or something. Whatever you find left. Grease the oven. Turn the crake pan to 350 degrees. Don't forget to beat off the turner.
Pour the oven into the batter. Throw the bowl out the window. Lick the batter off the floor. Bake 300 minutes at 50 degrees. Finish the blobble of whishy and flow to bed.
E-mail Rush, Don@ShermanPublications.org
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: email@example.com