My grandparents were teetotaling Southern Baptists. In their world, liquor was the devil’s drink and no self-respecting Christian would succumb to the temptations and tribulations that befall those weak souls who imbibe in alcohol.
This may have had some bearing on my grandmother’s personality. She was not a pleasant person to be around. Cranky you might say. Downright cantankerous at times. Except twice a year – during her biannual fruitcake baking extravaganza. Every year she would manufacture a couple dozen fruitcakes for the summer bake sale season and then repeat the process again for gift-giving between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Grandpa, whom we called “Daddy Jim” and grandmother (whom we called “grandmother”) would go to the store and collect the necessary ingredients, which always included a jug of rum. The legendary popularity of their fruitcakes in Haleyville, Alabama, may have had something to do with the generous portions of rum soaked into each confection.
During her fruitcake baking sessions and for a couple days after, grandmother held forth in grand spirits. She had a smile on her face and a song in her heart. Warm and generous, she chatted and cajoled with everyone – even her young grandson.
“Why is grandmother so happy when she’s baking those fruitcakes?” I asked Daddy Jim.
“Well, I can’t say for sure, boy. I don’t much like fruitcake, but I sure do like your grandmother better when she’s baking. Maybe it’s the spirit of giving that gets into her.”
As I grew older, I suspected there may have been a different kind of spirit propelling grandmother through fruitcake baking season, but we’ll leave that to grandmother and her maker to sort out. Here’s hoping you and your family have a safe and joyous season – with or without the fruitcake.
President, National Precast Concrete Association