There’s magic in making a recipe that you haven’t tasted in more than 40 years, from a beloved baker who hasn’t been around to guide you through a recipe for a quarter century. It’s like finding seeds in an archeological dig and testing to see if they’ll grow.
That’s how it was making my Mom’s fruitcake this year during the COVID-19 holiday lockdown. Mom passed away in 1995, and this was the first time I’d tried making it myself. The recipe came by way of my sisters, with measurements like “a package of” that I had to guess at just how big a package Mom had used. I adjusted the recipe below with the way I measured the ingredients.
Growing up, I never knew that people didn’t like fruitcake, because I loved my mom’s. Aurelia Kempster made this moist, spicy cake with juicy fruit and nuts throughout. It always made the house smell of great holiday spices, and was a favorite dessert for me and my siblings.
So, cut to the chase. Would I stand for three hours in line for a cronut ever again? No. Was it an adventure? Yes. Did we have fun? Yes. Was it fun for all the reasons I expected. Not exactly.
At about 6:30 this morning, Bob and I both woke up and couldn’t fall back to sleep. We’ve been talking about queuing up for cronuts for a while. For the uninitiated, a cronut is a cross between a croissant and a donut, introduced back in May of this year by Pastry Chef Dominique Ansel at his SoHo bakery. Since the first deep-fried buzz began to hit the food blogs, people began camping out on the bakery’s doorstep to be among the first lucky 150 to 250 people to snag a cronut or two before the day’s supply runs out. (Ansel makes them only once a day, and there is a two-cronut limit per customer.)
Christmas of 1989, my first after having moved to New York City, would have been fairly lonely had my then brand-new-beau Bob not invited me to his home in Beaver Falls outside of Pittsburgh, PA to celebrate the holidays with his family, or should I say at “Bubba’s.” That’s what his family called his mother. Bob’s father’s side of the family was Serbian, and even though his mother is a lean, wise-cracking, back-woods Kentucky woman—someone who’s real name of Katherine or “Kitty” would have suited her better—nevertheless, as soon as her first grandchild was born, she was given the nickname “Bubba,” a Serbian term of endearment for grandmothers.
Now, Bob’s family is one of the wildest, most chaotic groups of people that this little son of a lockstep German woman has ever spent the holidays with, but that first Christmas at Bubba’s swirls in my memory as the wildest. Continue reading “my first christmas dinner at bubba’s”→