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‘Tis the Season: Bake a Fruitcake 2

Jay Leno bestowed Marie Rudisill with the name “The Fruitcake Lady,” when she appeared with him on The Tonight Show.

Having just published her latest cookbook, Fruitcake: Memories of Truman Capote and Sook, Marie was sick and tired of Leno denigrating fruitcakes. His jokes went from bad to worse.

Photo by: sarsmis

Photo by: sarsmis

Q. What do you do with a Christmas fruitcake?

A. Try eating it! Hey! It’s one way to get rid of it!

Then, there was this one:

Q. How many fruitcakes are there in the world?

A. Just one, and it keeps being passed around and around from person to person.

All fired up, like a wood-burning oven on a cold winter morning, Marie wrote Leno a letter. “You’ve got a hell of a nerve,” she lectured. “A good fruitcake is a labor of love, a work of art. You don’t have any idea how good a fruitcake can be.” Well, she caught someone’s attention, and the next thing she knew she was mixing nuts and sifting flour on the fruit in front of a live studio audience.

As funny as the Fruitcake Lady is, she’s serious about fruitcakes, calling them “true ambrosia – the queen of cakes.” In her cookbook, she includes over twenty recipes. Can’t wait to get started? Here’s one Martha Washington is said to have used.

Cream together a 1/2 pound butter and 1-1/2 pounds sugar. Gradually add six beaten egg yolks until creamy; then dissolve one teaspoon of soda in one pint of sour cream and add, alternating with 1-1/2 pounds of flour. Next, add the whites of the six eggs, beaten stiff.

For the final steps, add one pound of raisins, one pound of currants, a 1/2 pound citron dredged with a 1/4 pound of flour. Add the juice of one lemon and the rind of two lemons, one grated nutmeg, and a sprinkling of mace.

Bake in a greased ten-inch tube pan for five hours at a slow, steady heat. Cover with buttered paper while baking.

A fruitcake makes a nice addition to your Christmas table. Or you can always pass it along to a neighbor or friend who’ll pass it along to a neighbor or friend who’ll pass it along to a neighbor or friend…

If you don’t have neighbors or friends who are keen on fruitcakes (I know, it’s hard to believe, but not everyone is), they might enjoy the Fruitcake Lady’s memoir, Ask Me Anything. It’s a special treat.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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Best Wishes and Happy Shopping

(Please note: this was first posted on my website YourBiography2.com.)

Before 1880 over half the population of the United States lived on the farm, and, yes, life was difficult. People woke up at the crack of dawn and read by candlelight. It’s hard to believe, but there was no electricity, no refrigeration or air conditioning, no radio or television, no computers or cell phones.

For entertainment, well, there wasn’t much in the way of entertainment. There wasn’t much shopping, either, except at the general store. Even there merchandise was limited and practical, and the head of the family did most of the shopping, bartering butter, cheese, eggs, vegetables and other staples that the merchant would resell. Thank goodness, Sears and Roebuck came along when they did.

For the 1925 woman who... From: HA! Designs - Art - by Heather

For the 1925 woman who… From: HA! Designs – Art – by Heather

Richard Sears produced his first catalog in 1893. The following year he expanded his self-declared “Book of Bargains” from jewelry and watches to include sewing machines, sporting goods, musical instruments, saddles, firearms, buggies, bicycles, baby carriages, furniture, china, glassware, and clothing for the whole family. The 1895 edition consisted of 532 pages. In 1896 he published in the spring and fall and added specialty catalogs, which two years later included photographic goods and talking machines.

Early on Sears added color. Buggies were presented in red, green, brown, and black with gold or silver trim on buggies. In 1897, shoes were advertised in black, red and brown. In 1899 carpets, furniture, and china were shown in various shades.

Although Mr. Sears retired in 1908, the company he started has always kept up with the times. In 1909 Sears carried a motor buggy. This item was replaced in 1913 with a specialty catalog for automobiles. In subsequent decades he carried television sets, dishwashers, electronic garage door openers, and microwave ovens.

The Christmas catalog first appeared in 1933. Its 87 pages were filled with presents for the entire family. There were dolls and toy trains, fruitcakes and chocolates, and live singing canaries, the latter being an accompaniment for budding American Idol competitors, perhaps. The cover of the 1937 catalog showed a photo of a brother and sister with the quote, “See the things that Santa brought, More’n what we thought he ought. Things for Mom and Daddy, too, N we hope there’s some for you.” In 1968 it was renamed the “Wish Book.”

If you long for the good old days, let your fingers do the walking through the Wish Book. It’s been online since 1998. In 2010 Sears went mobile, so customers can access the catalog with their smartphones. Earlier this year the company added another convenience: if you buy online and choose to pick up your purchase, a store associate will bring your shopping cart out to you. You won’t even have to leave your car.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

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Remembering Funny Men

1946 W.C. Fields Christmas card

1946 W.C. Fields Christmas card

Despite appearances, W.C. Fields and Charlie Chaplin had a lot in common.

They were both born into poor families in the late nineteenth century, Fields near Philadelphia in 1880 and Chaplin in London in 1889.  Before catapulting to fame during the silent movie era, Fields was in vaudeville.  He started as a juggler, appearing as a genteel tramp with a scruffy beard and shabby tuxedo, somehow managing to keep cigar boxes, hats, and other flying objects up in the air.

Chaplin, too, began on the vaudeville stage doing comedy sketches.  His impersonation of a drunk dressed in evening attire and top hat, attempting to light a cigar on a light bulb, was one of his most popular roles.

In character, Fields was a hard-drinking misanthrope, playing hustlers and card sharks with an animosity towards dogs and children.  Disputing this, Fields declared, “I like children – fried.”

Chaplin’s “the Tramp” was a good-hearted character who, regardless of his predicament which he often brought upon himself, acted like the perfect gentleman.  The Kid, “a picture with a smile – and perhaps, a tear,” featured seven-year old Jackie Coogan as “the Tramp’s” adopted son and sidekick.

The public adored both Fields and Chaplin, but both were lonely. “I was loved by crowds, but I didn’t have a single close friend,” Chaplin once bemoaned.

Explaining to his family his aversion to Christmas and other “silly holidays”, Fields lamented, “It’s because those days point up a thing called loneliness. An actor on the road — as I was for so long . . . and around the world seven times–finds himself all alone on the days when everyone else has friends and companionship. It’s not too good to be in Australia, or in Scotland, or in South Africa, as I was on tour, all alone on Christmas Day, and to see and hear a lot of happy strangers welcoming that two-faced merriment-monger Santa Claus, who passes you by.”

"Christmas Charlie" -- By: Mike Margolis

“Christmas Charlie” — By: Mike Margolis

Still Fields would boast, “Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six or seven.”

Ironically, Fields died on Christmas day, 1946.  In his will, later contested by his estranged wife and one of his two sons (both named William, after the old man), he left a portion of his estate to an orphanage “where no religion of any sort is preached.”

By coincidence, Chaplin, too, passed away on Christmas day, 1977, survived by two sons (including Charles Spencer Chaplin III) from an early marriage and eight children from his fourth and last marriage with Oona O’Neill.

What tremendous legacies these funny men left. They always made us laugh and sometimes made us cry. We remember them with joy in our hearts and good will to all.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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When you’re a kid, it’s simple. Christmas is magic. It’s a time of miracles, when reindeer can fly and Frosty never melts. Then you get older. Somehow, things change. The magic begins to fade. Until something happens that reminds you, at Christmas time… miracles still can be found. Sometimes in the most unexpected places.

— The Narrator, The Wonder Years, 1988-1993

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‘Tis the Season: Bake a Fruitcake

Marie Rudisill, also known as The Fruitcake Lady, got her nickname from writing about fruitcake.  Her book, Fruitcake: Memories of Truman Capote and Sook, preceded her appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  In fact, it precipitated her appearance when she sent a copy to a producer of The Tonight Show with a letter chastising Leno for his fruitcake jokes.

Too pretty to unwrap. Photo by: Babe_kl

Q. What do you do with a Christmas fruitcake?  A. Try eating it! Hey! It’s one way to get rid of it!

Seriously, Marie’s book is a gem.  She reminisces about growing up in the Old South, family traditions, her nephew Truman Capote, and their cousin Sook Faulk, whom Capote memorialized in A Christmas Memory.

Marie also rhapsodizes about fruitcakes, describing them as a “wonderful concoction of walnuts, pecans, candied red and green cherries, pineapples, date, almonds, and such” and calling them “true ambrosia – the queen of cakes.”

And, of course, she includes over twenty recipes.  Can’t wait to get started?  Here’s one Martha Washington is said to have used.

Cream together a 1/2 pound butter and 1-1/2 pounds sugar.  Gradually add six beaten egg yolks until creamy; then dissolve a teaspoon of soda in one pint of sour cream and add, alternating with 1-1/2 pounds of flour.  Next, add the whites of the six eggs, beaten stiff.

For the final steps, add one pound of raisins, one pound of currants, a 1/2 pound citron dredged with a 1/4 pound of flour.  Add the juice of one lemon and the rind of two lemons, one grated nutmeg, and a sprinkling of mace.

Bake in a greased ten-inch tube pan for five hours at a slow, steady heat.  Cover with buttered paper while baking.

A fruitcake will make a nice addition to your Christmas table.  Or you can always pass it along to a neighbor or friend who’ll pass it along to a neighbor or friend who’ll pass it along to a neighbor or friend…

© 2011 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved