Christmas fruitcake in July…why not?


“Cooking is a not a science but an art, mistakes are okay, messes are fine – the pleasure is in the creating and the sharing of the result.” Lori Pollan

Gratitude journal entry week 27 - a favourite recipe

The Gratitude Journal entry for this 27th week of the year is all about favourite recipes. Of course, my nonna’s Christmas fruitcake  came to mind.

Nonna (Nonni) is never forgotten

This is the second time I write about my nonna for this blog. When her sewing machine was given to me by my mother, I wrote about the reason it was so special to me. And of course, I also painted it.

But this is about her cooking….ahhhh, her cooking! She loved to cook for us. She always had something stashed in the fridge waiting for anyone who came to visit.

Her fried zucchini flowers were mouth-watering.

A traditional food from her homeland of northern Italy (Pozzo di Codroipo), they were light and just slightly crispy, with the right touch of sweetness. They were a special treat when she had too many zucchinis in her garden.

Nonna’s chicken soup with little pasta squares (those little squares made all the difference when we were young) was another favourite with all her grandchildren. I remember having this tasty soup in her kitchen after Sunday mass. No one has been able to make it like she did!

Nonna’s spaghetti sauce – the stuff of dreams

And her spaghetti sauce! Oh my! She would add her magic to the pot beginning with pork chop fat and garlic, then a little of this, a little of that, and hours later, we were eating with gusto the best spaghetti sauce ever!  Hers was a meaty version without all the veggies my mother and I add to our recipe.

The parish priest would come over when he knew that my grandmother was making her sauce just so she would invite him to stay for dinner.

When I asked her for the recipe, she told me her secrets but my sauce never tasted like hers. Even my mother came to reinvent the sauce in her own manner as she herself could not duplicate my grandmother’s recipe.

A rich lemony tasting fruitcake….

But for this entry, I remembered that I had my Nonna’s light Christmas cake recipe (Christmas cake bianco) written half in Italian and half in English.

nonna's handwritten old-fashioned Christmas cake

Both my grandmother and my mother would make this cake early in the fall and let it soak in cherry brandy for months before Christmas.  And then, when my children were young, I also made it.  But not many people like this type of cake and you can guess who ate most of it!

The secret is in the butter and eggs…

Loaded almost a pound of butter, six eggs, maraschino cherries, both green and red, as well as the usual peels, and fruits, and nuts, this cake thumbs its nose at all diets!

Nonna was happiest when she was sharing her food with family. Her cooking was comfort, love, warmth, pleasure all wrapped into one delicious package.

Nonna and her Christmas cake

(Nonna passed away in 1987.  In the photo above,  my husband and I were tickling her because she was always so serious in photographs. You can see her Christmas cake sitting on the table. Fond memories.)

What foods bring back good memories for you?  Which recipes remind you of special events or people in your life?  Which recipes will you pass along to your children and grandchildren?

2 Responses

  • Loved your story of special moments of sharing food ,family and love.

    Many years ago when my children were young, money was scarse, I started making special occasions around special foods and our time spent together.

    Birthdays were their favourite cake, favourite breakfast in bed (yes, even if it was pancakes) . It didn’t matter if it was a school day, I just got up earlier to make it happen.

    At Christmas we would make special cookies (only made at this time of year) They would help me make them. We would only start eating them on Christmas Eve.

    Today my children are all grown up and have their own families. They have continued this tradition of Christmas cookies. My daughter still makes 2 or 3 of my cookies with a few of her own recipes while my sons have come up with again different ones. We all share . I love it.

    My children never lacked for anything. They always had a gift under the tree but more importantly they had love.

    • What a lovely story Elaine. It is those special moments that our children will remember and cherish, not the material things they received. Most the of the gifts are quickly forgotten but the one gift that remains in the minds of our children is the gift of our time. Thank you so much for sharing.

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