Since she died, the oddest things trigger rushes of memory and put me in a melancholy mood.
For example, no one normally associates fruitcake with sadness, but I learned a few weeks ago that one bite sent me on a bittersweet journey down memory lane.
One of our friends in Birmingham invited us to a Christmas gathering where one of the desserts was fruitcake.
It was scrumptious, and as I nibbled on the cake I became introspective. The look on my face must have revealed more than I realized because someone standing nearby asked me if I was OK.
I explained that the last fruitcake I’d eaten was one my mom had made. I went on to explain that my mom prepared all kinds of fruitcakes during the holidays. One was a no-bake fruitcake using graham crackers and marshmallows, but my personal favorite was a Franklin Nut Cake.
She was a pretty good country cook, but she was a master at cakes, pies and candy.
Before we left the party last week, Jilda asked for the fruitcake recipe and the hostess shared it.
On the way home, we stopped by the supermarket and bought all the stuff. It’s obvious why store-bought fruitcakes carry a hefty price tag. The fruit, nuts and the other ingredients needed to make a quality cake cost more than a new microwave.
This past Sunday, we invited friends over for a holiday visit, so we spruced up the house on Saturday, and that evening Jilda decided to make the fruitcake.
Normally when I ask if I can help, she says no. The main reason is because our kitchen is so small that when there's two people in there working, it's more like dancing.
But that evening, she said sure. So I helped cut up the pineapple, dates, pecans, cherries and other ingredients. We used our largest bowl, but fitting all the stuff in it was a challenge.
We solved the problem by mixing the fruity concoction in two bowls before transferring it into a tube pan.
After popping that baby in the oven, we ate supper and watched “A Christmas Carol” with Patrick Stewart, which is my favorite version of the Dickens' classic.
The aroma of that cake kept wafting through the air as thick as gardenias in spring. It was all I could do to keep from diving into the oven head first and eating my fill with a fork.
After the timer tinged, she set the cake out and it seemed to take days to cool. We’d watched “A Christmas Story” a few days earlier and I kept visualizing one of our dogs rushing the kitchen table, knocking over the cake dish and absconding with our fruitcake like the Bumpus hounds did with the turkey in that classic Christmas movie.
Fortunately that didn’t happen, and we’ve enjoyed fruitcake with coffee each morning since. I think our cake would have made my mama proud.