Posted by: Jim E | December 23, 2013

Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake…A Gift To You…

Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake…A Gift To You…

 

I wrote this about 1995, give or take a few years, I really can’t pinpoint the year…I think I have shared this every year since then in some form or another…with some audience or another…read it to the students at school over the intercom…gave it as a Christmas letter…Oh, all kinds of ways…I always thought it was about my Grandma and her fruitcake she always made…but in the end it became something more…I don’t really know what it will be for you…but enjoy Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake and all the love that always came with it…

There are all kinds of jokes and stories about fruitcakes…there is one that says…there are only so many fruitcakes that have ever been made in the world and they are the same ones being given away every year…or the one that fruitcakes are good for something, like a doorstop…and another, that the post office this time of year puts out a warning…if you get a package with no return address, it is over 5 pounds and it smells funny, be careful, it may be a fruitcake…and it goes on and on…

But I can tell a story about fruitcake and about a woman who made them…it was my grandmother…Grandma Reggin, my mom’s mother…she is the only one I know who made fruitcake and did what is suppose to be done with them…gave them away…

Grandma was born in 1896…in fact she would have been 114 years old last July…she lived a little over 72 years…and she could cook and bake…and she made fruitcake…every year, I always ate a little fruitcake but never cared much for it…the candied fruit was a little much for me…but my Grandpa Reggin, he loved it…he loved the candied fruit, the nuts, the spices and the dark cake, full of flavor…he loved everything about fruitcake…and because he was a hero to me…I tried to eat it…but just couldn’t get into it…

My Grandma, at Christmas time, when people visited, would put out ample slices of fruitcake, and I would watch while the Hungry Boy cookies, the decorated sugar cookies and the date-filled cookies, that my Grandma was famous for, would disappear…but much of the fruitcake was still on the plate…

My Grandfather, as I said, loved fruitcake…and he really liked it with a real cup of coffee…(Grandpa was a coffee roaster for McGarvey Coffee Company in Minneapolis…I use to go and watch him roast those green beans that had no smell…into those dark beans we know as coffee beans…full of aroma)…and by a real cup of coffee, I mean he wanted one that, as he put it, “That I can stand a spoon up in.”…and maybe a little cream…and he would savor that fruitcake with that “real cup” of coffee…I can see that picture in my mind, and “I savor” that time with him…

So Grandma would make fruitcake…I mean she made fruitcake!…we lived next door to my grandparents and I went over there everyday…and close to Christmas every year she would begin to bake in earnest…she made pounds of fruitcake…wrapped them in waxed paper, “tin foil” and ribbon…and put them on the unheated covered back porch to keep fresh until she gave them away…she also made Hungry Boy cookies by the hundreds and other cookies to give away…she would give them to the paperboy, milkman, mailman, at the gas station, the meter reader…just anyone who provided service to her during the year…and off they would go with some cookies and of course a fruitcake to share at home…it was her gift of love at Christmas…

No doubt I loved Grandma very much…her modeling this love at Christmas…her unselfishness and devotion to others came out often…when anyone would criticize someone…she would say, “You just don’t understand.”…the idea was, if you only understood, you would not criticize…never an unkind word came out of her mouth, at least in my presence…she was without peer in that area of life…

I remember getting in the car with her and going down to pick up my Grandpa after work…I would go with her often when I was quite young…and especially the day or so before Christmas, when she and I would load up the old Plymouth with all the precious cargo she had made…go down to McGarvey’s and take the bounty into the office area and the giving would begin…

It was an large open office area…with all the desks in a row…and down at the far end, behind glass walls, were the offices of the president and other officers…and in we walked…Grandma in front and me trailing behind carrying my share…as we passed each desk, she would place some cookies, all wrapped up…and of course, a fruitcake at each desk…they all thanked her and talked to her as we went on with our Christmas giving…

And as we inched toward the president’s office, I was apprehensive…but my Grandmother was not…she was a simple woman…as people would look at her today and even then…but not to me and to those who knew her…she was kind, generous and loving…and did not hold a negative thought about anyone…nor that they would ever think anything negative about her…that was her attitude and it was disarming then as it is today…it didn’t really matter what the president or those in the other offices were doing, she would stand there patiently…and they would always stop what they were doing and come out to wish her “Merry Christmas”…talk for a while…thank her for her gifts and we would leave…I don’t know if anyone else could have got away with that…but she did…

So this wonderful woman, who spent some of her growing up years in an orphanage, because her mother could not take care of her…had four children…all raised in a house 20 feet by 40 feet…and out of that kitchen in that house came a legacy which I share with you today…one of giving and love…it was Grandma’s Christmas Fruitcake…

And at the end of her life…I sat on the hospital bed next to what had become a frail body of this marvelous woman…and leaned over and took her beautiful face in my hands…kissed her and told her again, the wonderful gospel story of Jesus…who came as a babe, who lived and died for her…who was waiting for her…to escort her home…and for the last time told her I loved her…and let her go…

I wish you Joy, Peace…and wonderful memories…Merry Christmas…

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Responses

  1. Merry Christmas Jim & Family! Just thought I’d share with you my morning expedition to Ingebretson’s!!! It was a brisk -1 with a fresh dusting of snow all around when I headed out with my sister from San Francisco. I knew it would be crowded this close to Christmas but my sister wanted to explore Ingebretson’s gift and knitting shops while we waited for our turn at the butcher counter. She couldn’t believe it when I told her to bundle up warm and prepare for a wait. She just about died when we approached and could see a line a block long threading it’s way into the corner shop. I sent her into the knitting shop while I took a place in line out in the cold (since I’m the “nice” sister! LOL)

    Ninety minutes later we departed with Swedish sausage rings and meatball mix, pickled herring, lefse, and a few Christmas gifts tucked under our arms. I thought of you while making my annual Christmas sojourn this morning. May you and all the family enjoy a blessed Christmas bathed in the WARMTH and love of our dear Christ Lord. Please send WARM thoughts northward as I’ll need them to thaw out before spring!

    Patty

    • Patty…Oh, heavens…just know, I go with you ever year you travel to Ingebretson’s…they say they sell 1 ton of Swedish sausage and meatball mix everyday at their store..well, during “the season”…Christmas is very special to all those Scandinavians, and those who pretend they are at this time of year…I hope you enjoyed the Swedish sausage for you Christmas meal…or around that time…when we come North during the summer we always try and make time to stop and get Swedish sausage frozen and take back home…we toss it in the freezer and have to wait until Thanksgiving…we have a ring that day and then save some for Christmas…we had our yearly lefse-making party again this year…we have a great recipe…we go to the home of our son and his wife and family…it is a great time…we have two grills…four “sticks” and two boards for rolling out…(the boards are made of cloth covered board…made by Bethany products…I think still in Bloomington???)…anyway you can get all that stuff online…Amazon or Target or someplace…and what fun that night is…hot off the grill lefse…sooo gooood…butter, sugar or lingonnberries…or whatever you want…hey, I eat cheese, meat, etc…and it is all better with lefse…one of our granddaughters got married and her new husband tasted lefse for the first time…hooked, that’s all I can say…he loves it…but warm off the grill…you can’t beat it…this recipe is so soft and great tasting…some friends taught us how to make it 20 years ago or more…we have made it since…they told us that they and 3 other couples got together and made lefse…we invited ourselves along…and got the recipe and have made it ever since…in fact a neighbor down here came along this year to watch and help make it…they took the recipe and are going to buy the utensils and make it themselves…like we did so long ago…he is from Minnesota…and loves lefse…and really loved this recipe…so on it goes…

      And I can believe the long lines…hope you sister loved the stuff like we do…we can’t get “good” herring down here…I found that Day, MN has the best herring…but Ingebretson’s comes a close second…so good, I used to get it from a meat market in Robinsdale…Hackenmueller’s…I think they have herring from Day, MN…like eating soft bread…but no doubt it’s pickled herring…great stuff…and they have great meat there too…if you ever go, call before and see if their herring is still from Day…it’s an old-time meat market…it smells like they used to smell…smoked meat and sausages…good place…anyway…I’ve said too much…have a great Christmas season…like the St. Olaf choir sang last night from Norway on PBS…from John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”…we celebrate His birth this day…I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmastime…Jim E

  2. Over Christmas my dad and I were talking about your grandparents, parents and especially all those wonderful baked goods that you mentioned. I also thought about my cousin Dondrea, years ago on the Friday after thanksgiving she would have some friends over and bake hungry boys. I do not remember how many they baked, but it was a lot. There freezer was packed full of them.

    Wonderful memories

    • Mark…we made Hungry Boy cookies a couple of times this year…also we made lefse too…we have a great recipe that we got from a friend when we lived in Minnesota…Oh, about 25 years ago or more, a friend talked about making lefse…we liked lefse but didn’t know anyone made it…so we invited ourselves to their lefse party…there were about four couples who made it…they had the grills, and rollers and all the makings…we tried it once and we were hooked…we have made it every year since…it is so great, especially warm off the grill…so soft and tender…great stuff…we did it together with Jared and Marisa and their extended family…everyone gets involved and takes part…and someone from our neighborhood invited themselves this year…like we did years ago…they are from Minnesota…up near Fergus Falls area…he is Norwegian…so he ate about as much as he made on the grill…it was a great time…soft butter, lingonberries, on warm lefse…wonderful…makes for great memories…Jim E

  3. Hi Jim! I love reading your Grandma’s fruitcake post every year. She sounds like such an amazing woman. My Grandma made fruitcake every year also. Such good memories. Sadly, I never got her recipe before she passed. I haven’t found a fruitcake yet that I like as much as hers (probably because I haven’t found anyone who still makes them homemade). I just keep trying fruitcake from local bakeries. Do you happen to have your Grandma’s recipe? Or any homemade fruitcake recipe? If so, would you mind sharing it? Even if I can’t make it as well as my Grandma (or yours), I’d still love to make it just to remember all my years of making it with her, the smell, etc.
    Happy New Year to you, Judie and your family!
    ~Julie

    • Julie…yup, she was a keeper…as were her recipes we acquired…but you know many of her recipes were written in her old cookbook longhand…and they don’t make much sense to me…at least many of them…the cookbook is called “Modern Priscilla Cookbook”…published in 1924 by the Priscilla Publishing Company…”Copyright in Great Britain and the Colonies”…it is literally falling apart…but still see her handwriting in it…I don’t have her recipe for fruitcake…but there are a couple with “a check” beside them…will have to try one or the other…one says to pour strong coffee over the cakes when taken from the oven…I would have to reread the recipe to see what it means…but that would be one my Grandpa would have liked…

      But Judie found a fruitcake recipe that you may like…we have grown to love it…it was in “Ladies Home Journal”, Dec/Jan 2013…she has made it a couple of times…great with coffee…a recipe that came from back in the 20’s…she always disliked fruitcake…but this is different she said…she called it “Don’t Call-It-A-Fruitcake Spice Cake”…but it has dates, raisins, dried apricots, walnuts…it is great…no candied fruits…but cinnamon, cloves…great taste…Here’s the link… http://www.lhj.com/recipe/dont-call-it-a-fruitcake-spice-cake-1/

      Judie changed a few things…added some cranberries, more apricots, etc…but otherwise the same…it is a heavy, dense cake…we love…you may not bake it as long as said…but you will have to test it…we loved it…hope you have a great year…Jim E

  4. Hi Jim!
    I finally made it back on here. Please give Judie my thanks for the recipe link. It looks delicious so I’ll definitely be making it. I hope you all are doing well. Talk to you soon!
    ~Julie


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