The only fruitcakes I ever liked were my paternal grandmother’s. They were basically just pound cakes with candied fruit, but I always thought they were delicious and would sneak slivers of them when I thought no one was looking.
For the first time since my grandmother’s passing ten years ago, I decided to try to make her fruitcake myself this year. I checked the recipe cards I had been given when she died, but that recipe wasn’t among them. I did find one for okra cakes, which I don’t remember ever eating, and another for apple nut squares that calls for half a cup of “broken nuts.” (I want that to be the title of my next book, and I request the story gods to send me something fitting as soon as possible.)
I found several recipes online that looked close and ultimately chose one that I knew wasn’t quite right but that looked good. I know my grandmother never added a cup of almond flour to anything, but I thought it might add a nice flavor. The process took a little longer than expected because I couldn’t find candied orange peels and had to make my own. Making and drying them took an extra day, but it did make the cabin smell wonderful.
The effort resulted in two loaves of almondy, fruity pound cake that I took to Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners with our quarantine crew here on the lake. The cakes tasted just like I wanted, brought back great memories, and I really enjoyed them. Here’s the thing about fruitcakes though: most people don’t really care much for them, no matter how great the intention.
Their reception was polite (we are southerners around here after all), but I wouldn’t say enthusiastic. My husband is the most wonderful man in the world, but even he only nibbled a bite out of respect for my grandmother. May she rest. Sometimes you just have to make something for yourself.
I feel that way about my books sometimes. I write stories primarily about gay men, who are what, three percent of the population, if that? That means that the vast majority of the reading population might just be polite nibblers without much interest in them, and that’s OK. I still think they’re important. We exist, we have stories, and it’s good to tell them.
And maybe I’ve had a hand in creating new traditions as well. After Lake Fearless 2: Bedtime Stories came out, our lake family recreated a night of revelry on the water under the full Sturgeon Moon, and it was one of the most magical nights of the summer that we can’t wait to repeat. Cherry wine kisses in front of the fire on Christmas Eve are worthy of an annual tradition too.
It’s fun to add a new spin on things, to create new memories, and to inspire others. I liked the addition of the almond flour to my grandmother’s fruitcake, and I like writing and reading stories of men falling in love and celebrating life together. There are more of those to come in the new year.
I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, fruitcake or no, and a most adventurous new year.