To look up and not down,
To look forward and not back,
To look out and not in, and
To lend a hand.
Edward Everett Hale
Happy New Year everyone. Thank you for always being who you are. I would like to share a published story and hopefully a smile this very first day of 2016. May this year be full of happiness, wonder and a compassion for one another.
Worth its weight in gold
My Grandma used to say “It’s worth its weight in gold” all the time. Many reasons and occasions brought out that little gem.
I remember hearing her commenting on the price of sugar, one day. “It’s worth its weight in gold” she exclaimed as she set it on the table. It was set beside the “Worth its weight in gold” real butter. That was back in the sixties and we were making shortbread cookies for Christmas. We would get to mixing and measuring, careful to not spill one little crystal of that precious commodity. A Christmas tradition never to be ignored.
There is another Christmas tradition that appears to draw a fascination, mixed with a love or hate: and that is fruitcake. Everyone has heard of it, or read about it. It has been gifted, or re-gifted. According to legend, at one time a fruitcake was given as a gag gift. Over and over again, it was wrapped, unwrapped and rewrapped until finally thrown out, once it was deemed no longer funny. Apparently, it is the most dreaded of Christmas gifts by far. I read somewhere that a sixty year old fruitcake was found in England. It was still wrapped in waxed brown paper, buried in a bomb shelter.
I am sure that those who love it will always love it. I am also sure that those who hate it, will never be convinced of its worth. Generations of fruitcake bakers, have dumped and soaked it in so much alcohol that I am sure after a few pieces you would feel very festive indeed. Brandy was what my Great Grandma used. “Worth its weight in gold” she would say.
Oh yes it was, and this seems to be very true this year as well, even without the brandy. I know this only because My Hero loves fruitcake, and I like to see him smile.
Ontario Canada happens to have one of the highest priced electricity rates of any province. We are lucky though, because, there are “Time of use” discounts. “Off peak” times, where the price is decreased per kilowatt hour used, so I guess that can be considered lucky. After all, everyone I know living here loves doing their laundry, vacuuming and cooking in the middle of the night or on weekends.
Honestly, who does not want to do that? Did you know fruitcake takes two and a half hours to bake? Electricity in Ontario seems to be “Worth its weight in gold”.
Now that I have established the “Worth its weight in gold” scenario about my own fruitcake, I will continue on.
Pulling the bag of walnuts off the shelf at the big box store the twenty dollar price tag intimidated me, but I pushed on. My Hero wanted that fruit cake and I was going to do it no matter how much it was going to cost him. Thinking of the sugar and the real butter that my Grandma had needed for those shortbread cookies, I placed it in the cart beside the ten dollar bag of raisins -- I cannot even remember the price of mixed candied fruit.
By that time, I had completely stopped looking and was only on a mission, turning a blind eye to the prices. Denial was to be my friend that day. Mixed with a bit of dread, and wonder about why I was really doing this, I finally had all the ingredients I needed. Now I just had to wait for the weekend because the thought of staying up all night and baking for cheap rates seemed silly.
My Grandma could not afford the sugar and that real butter back then either. Times were tough, but it was Christmas and expectations were high, and after all it was tradition. They were Grandpa’s favourite. Yes I had to do this. The look on My Hero’s face would be much like I remember my Grandpa’s, when he bit into that cookie, “Worth its weight in gold”.
As I stirred in all those ingredients, on Sunday morning (off peak), I looked at the “Worth their weight in gold” ingredients and wondered if it was going to be worth it. Doubts started to bubble up inside me. What if I burned it? What if I undercooked it? What if it did not have enough fruit? All these questions ran through my head.
I patiently waited those two and a half hours, then I pulled those “Worth their weight in gold” little bundles of tradition out of the oven. They looked perfect. I looked at the recipe again just in case I had missed something.
‘Allow to ripen for several weeks for best flavour.’
It looks like we will not really know if they are worth anything, till at least February. My Hero is outside welding (off peak) a new farm gate to keep the cows in. He is definitely “Worth his weight in gold”.
By the way, if any of my relatives are expecting to be gifted one of these little gems, don’t. Remember, the “Most dreaded gift” thing. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they cost a tractor bucket full of loonies to make.
(Published December 31, 2015) in The Napanee Guide