‘Tis the season for fruitcake
“Christmas is coming
O, the happy time!
Christmas is coming
Sing a merry rhyme!
What is Christmas bringing?
Love and joy and gay bells ringing
With a golden chime!”
Closer to Christmas this is the way I’ll feel. I’ll be all set for my family to celebrate the season together when we open gifts and have Christmas dinner at our house.
Right now I am focused on the news of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in a square in Cairo, Egypt; a hard-fought anti-abortion bill shelved for this year; Iran’s attempts to arm itself with nuclear weapons; and the misappropriation of federal funds meant to train workers in southeastern Ohio.
I am also painfully aware of the seasonal solicitations from charities. Images of people in all sorts of distress wait for me daily in my mailbox. I’m sorry I can’t help everyone who needs it — I guess you might say I have “seasonal guilt disorder.”
When I focus on my community (never mind focusing globally) going into the Christmas season I am overwhelmed by the needs of others. So, rather than paralyze myself by thoughts of what I cannot do, I do what I can. I hope it makes a difference, one person at a time.
In cold weather, I carry a blanket or two, bottles of water, and six packs of peanut butter crackers in my car. When I see someone standing by the side of the road with a hand-printed sign in need of something to eat or a drink of water, I can help.
I carry dollar bills in my pocket, and rarely pass a Salvation Army kettle that I don’t stop to contribute. When grocery stores run their “neighbor-to-neighbor” food bank solicitations at the cash registers I purchase a dollar token to help those who have less than I do.
It doesn’t take much to leave a person a little better off than he was when you first noticed him. I find that each small act of kindness to another living being lifts my spirits and gives me at least as much happiness to have contributed as it gives another to receive.
Cooking and baking ahead of Christmas never fails to make me happy. This is the time to get started baking fruitcakes for the dinners and parties ahead.
RICH ‘N’ EASY
1 1/2 candied citron
1 cup red and green candied cherries; divided
3/4 cup dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup finely diced candied pineapple
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup pecan halves
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a tube pan with two layers of brown paper, and grease pan and paper well.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix in citron, dates, 3/4 cup cherries, pineapple, and nuts. Stir until all fruit is coated.
In another large bowl, cream the butter with the white sugar. Add lemon rind, vanilla, lemon juice, and eggs; mix well. Stir in fruit mixture. Spread batter into prepared pan. Top with pecan halves and 1/4 cup cherries in a decorative pattern.
Bake for 2 hours. Cool to lukewarm and remove from pan.
Place fruitcake in a tin with a tight-fitting lid. Poke holes in top. Spoon over 1/4 cup brandy or bourbon. Cover tightly and allow to rest for five days to one week. Remove lid and spoon over another 1/4 cup brandy or bourbon. Repeat a third time.
Slice thinly to serve.
There are lots of bad fruitcakes out there, better used for a doorstop than dessert. This is definitely not one of them.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.