Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fruitcake - Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Sarah Saggers and Joe Rogers, with their two children,
George and David, at South Vancouver, B.C., abt 1920
(P.S. Happy Birthday, Grandpa!)

December 14 - Fruitcake – Friend or Foe?

First off, I need to make this clear – I love fruitcake! Can’t imagine Christmas (or weddings) without it. And, can’t understand why others, like my kids, don’t like it and even make fun of it.

So there!

The other thing I love, closely related, would be ‘The Christmas Pudding’.

When I was growing up, things English were still thought of as the norm here by many. British Columbia, Canada, had a lot of ‘born English’ residents, after all, like my grandmum, who came in 1907 to Vancouver(although I wouldn’t say English immigrants were welcomed later in the 40’s and 50’s.) But by the time I went to school, things were changing. Some of my friends had been born in other parts of Europe, and, in their homes, there were lots of good things to eat that I had never tasted before.

There are times when the comfort of ‘tradition’ is wanted though, as at Christmas. Yes, we had fruitcake, and pound cake with cherries, even cookies with a variety of dried fruit in them. We had mincemeat tarts or pies – my mother’s Beta Sigma Phi group used to make mincemeat in big batches and sell it at bazaars.

But at Christmas dinner, we always had Xmas pudding too. My mother had a special big pot for boiling/steaming it. (I think she bought the pudding 'ready made' many years, but don’t tell. She wasn’t English, that’s for sure, but a prairie girl from Manitoba.) One year, she tried to ‘flame’ it as I’ve mentioned before. One year for sure I know the pudding had favours in it – I think Canadian dimes, not charms. (Maybe this was thought of as hazardous; it certainly wasn't done every year.) We always ate the hot pudding with ‘hard sauce’ – made with butter, sugar, eggs, a bit of milk and some vanilla flavouring, (no whisky or brandy for us).

Many years ago, when my dad finally let me root through his ‘Rogers box’, which held the few papers left by my Grandma and Grandpa Rogers, I found my grandma’s recipe. Here it is, as she wrote it out.

Xmas Pudding – from Sarah Frances Rogers, née Saggers (born Bassingbourn, CAM, England, 1877; died Vancouver, B.C., Canada, 1954)

½ lb beef suet
½ lb sultanas
½ lb currants
¼ lb bread crumbs
2 cups blanched almonds
1 lemon juice & grated rhind
5 eggs
½ tea spoon salt
¼ tea spoon nutmeg
½ “ “ mixed spice
½ “ “ mace
1 table spoon of molasses
½ lb rasins
¼ lb flour
½ lb brown sugar
¼ lb mixed peel
1 orange juice & rhind

(Makes) 2 medium bacins

Grandma has made a note that she omits the almonds – I’d keep them in!

Again, from Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”

“.…the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding!....”

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