“Christmas Morning” by Carl Larrson
So, are you having visions of sugar plums yet? (I’m curious — have any of you actually established a meaningful relationship with a sugar plum?)
Well, the yuletide season is upon us once again — the annual onslaught of frenzied shopping, card scribbling, tree decorating, egg nog guzzling, and my favorite, cookie baking! Yay! We’ve stashed away our pumpkins, eaten the last of our turkey sandwiches, and now it’s time to stuff those goodie bags and fill those tins and trays with holiday treats.
Today, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the most maligned and ridiculed outcast of Christmas offerings, the fruitcake.
Did you just gag?
Some say fruitcakes were doing just fine until Johnny Carson joked that there really is only one fruitcake in the world, passed from family to family. But the song I’m sharing today proves that poor fruity was the butter of jokes as far back as 1883, when C. Frank Horn composed, “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake.”
Now, Miss Fogarty and I go way back. In my famous high school speech class, where I recited several food poems (including “I Had But Fifty Cents,” which I blogged about last year), I also memorized what I thought was a poem called “Miss Fogarty’s Cake.” In a strange incidence of serendipity, my delivery took the form of a prissy Irish lass pushing hygienic potatoes. Aye, the accent was too authentic for words!
Imagine how my nuts cracked some 30+ years later, when I learned that Miss Fogarty wasn’t a poem, but a song! And it had a chorus full of fruit! This revelation only furthers my long held belief that I was always fated to marry an Irishman, and to live out the rest of my days trying to convince the world that my real name is McJama.
Before I serve up the song, a few words (in hushed tones), about the dear fruitcake. If you are one of those cynical moderno (yes moderno) types with no respect for tradition, now hear this: DO NOT JUDGE all fruitcakes by the mass produced variety.
Make your own, with fresh, creamery butter and good quality fruit (using only those you truly like to begin with), douse it with rum, brandy or your favorite hardcore booze, wrap well in cheesecloth and foil, then let it age at least a week. Rather than trying to recyle it, you will find yourself hoarding it. Proof of a good cake is in the number of hunky Irish tenors who follow you home. If stored properly in a tin, a fruitcake can last months, or even years. That’s a lot of Irish tenors!
MISS FOGARTY’S CHRISTMAS CAKE
by C. Frank Horn
As I sat by my window last evening,
The letterman brought unto me
A little gilt-edged invitation, sayin’
“Gilhooley come over to tea.”
I knew that the Fogarties sent it.
So I went just for old friendships sake.
The first thing they gave me to tackle
Was a slice of Miss Fogarty’s cake.
There were plums and prunes and cherries,
There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon, too.
There was nutmeg, cloves and berries
And a crust that was nailed on with glue.
There were caraway seeds in abundance
Such that work up a fine stomach ache
that could kill a man twice after eating a slice
Of Miss Fogarty’s Christmas cake.
Miss Mulligan wanted to try it,
But really it wasn’t no use
For we worked on it over an hour
And couldn’t get none of it loose.
Till Murphy came in with a hatchet
And Kelly came in with a saw
That cake was enough be the power above
For to paralyze any man’s jaws.
Miss Fogarty proud as a peacock,
Kept smiling and blinking away
Till she flipped over Flanagan’s brogan
And spit the homebrew in her tea.
Aye Gilhooley she says you’re not eatin’
Try a little bit more for me sake.
And no Miss Fogarty says I,
For I’ve had quite enough of your cake.
Maloney was took with the colic,
O’Donald’s a pain in his head
McNaughton lay down on the sofa,
And he swore that he wished he was dead.
Miss Bailey went into hysterics
And there she did wriggle and shake.
And everyone swore they were poisoned
Just from eating Miss Fogarty’s cake.
Here’s a good white fruitcake recipe for you to try. Batter up!
Read more about “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” from the New York Folklore Society here.
To demonstrate your newfound support for fruitcakes, listen to the song here.
Finally, to celebrate your ongoing fruitiness with other poetry nuts, check out this week’s roundup at Mommy’s Favorite Children’s Books.
“‘Oh my,’ she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane. ‘It’s fruitcake weather!'” ~ from A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote.