Glorious and Dreaded Fruitcake

It’s that time of year: fudge, divinity, Christmas cookies, gingerbread men, FRUITCAKE.

photo courtesy of wikimedia commons
photo courtesy of wikimedia commons D Ramey Logan

Now, I’ll be frank with you. I’m in the minority. I like fruitcake; actually, I love it. I was five or six years old the first time I had any. My piano teacher held a recital/party in her home one Christmas, and she served slices of fruitcake on her fancy little plates. I wanted more, but I’d been raised to wait for a hostess to offer seconds. If she offered me another piece, I’ve forgotten it. Of all the marvelous holiday treats my mother created at Christmas, fruitcake was never one of them. Her orange slice cake was as close as she ever came to making such a treat, and it was good. But not as good as a good old-fashioned fruitcake.

Since fruitcake has a unique texture and flavor that is hard to duplicate, and the fragrance practically shrieks “Holiday!”, I wondered where this dessert originated. I found out that no one knows for sure. My research tells me Roman soldiers had fruitcake with them waaay back in the good ol’ days when they traveled because it was, and is, virtually indestructible. They added raisins, pine nuts and pomegranate seeds to barley mash. Sounds terrible.

Apparently Egyptians tucked fruitcake in with their dead folks when they sent them on to the hereafter. I suspect the reason fruitcake was use instead of, oh, say, apples or oranges or a ham sandwich was because of the staying power of these cakes.

The Crusaders packed fruitcake on their own adventures. They brought fruit back home from long distances, but the fruits often spoiled. They found if they dried it, added honey and spices, it would make the trip much better. And because a lot of the fruits came from the Holy Land, it seemed appropriate to serve at Christmas or Easter, and hence our traditions. A thousand years ago in Italy, a thin chewy cake called “panforte” was made, and still is. It could be that this “panforte” was the result of the Crusaders ingenuity.

Its dense texture, color and flavor is dependent upon nuts, sugars, dried fruits, liquors, and a variety of spices. A fruitcake properly preserved then packaged well can be kept, unspoiled, for years. I doubt, however, that a good fruitcake has even a modicum of MSG in it.

Happily, I live near two places where fruitcake “to die for” is made. College of the Ozarks, in Point Lookout, Missouri offers wonderfully flavored desserts made by the students.

The Assumption Abbey, near Ava, Missouri is another welcome resource for a fruitcake lover like me.

Lucky for me, my husband doesn’t like any of them, no matter where they come from. That’s fine; it simply means more for yours truly!

May you all have a blessed Christmas, with or without the glorious and dreaded fruitcake!


(this article previously published in Christian Fiction Online Magazine)

It’s Pure Sterling!

Everyone loves Winnie the Pooh. His fuzzy rotund body, his waddling walk, his enormous appetite for honey. Er, excuse me, hunny. And that voice. That incredible, funny, lovable voice. Who can look at an image of Pooh without remembering it? winnie 2
If you’ve ever seen actor Sterling Holloway in a movie or on TV, the first thing you notice is his voice. His is the original voice of Winnie the Pooh! winnie
Sterling Holloway was born in Georgia in 1905. His father was a grocer, but there was a distant relative in England who was an actress of some renown in her time. Holloway left home young to start his acting career, and he traveled with an acting company, performing The Shepherd of the Hills. Of course he eventually went to Hollywood. His first movie was The Battling Kangaroo, a silent, released in 1926. He made other silent movies, and at once point was told by a director he was “too repulsive” for the screen. He quit for about five years. sterling silent
When the talkies came out, it seemed Holloway’s voice might be a huge stumbling block to his continuing in movies. But with a somewhat goofy face, scrawny build, curly shock of red hair, and that high-pitched voice, he soon found himself cast in a variety of comedic roles. He co-starred with actors such as Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, and Joan Crawford. At one point, he turned down a contract with Louis B. Mayer “because he didn’t want to be a star,” but stardom didn’t bypass him. He became a familiar face and voice to generations. moron than off
In 1933, he was the voice of the frog in Paramount’s version of Alice in Wonderland. Nineteen years later, he was the voice of the Cheshire Cat in Disney’s version of the same story. He was the voice of the snake in the Jungle Book and the adult Flower in Bambi.
In July of 1942, Holloway was drafted in the Army. His records affirm that he was 5’9 and weighed all of 124 pounds. After the war, he returned to acting in movies.
During the Golden Age of television we were able to enjoy Holloway’s presence. He played a regular on The Life of Riley, and at least one episode of many sit-coms, including Hazel, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet Show, Gilligan’s Island and, my personal favorite, The Andy Griffith Show.
Holloway was in his last movie, Thunder and Lightning in 1977. In 1991, he was named a Disney Legend.
In November, 1992, at the age of 87, the world lost the voice, the look and the unforgettable character that was Sterling Holloway. sterling older