I've carried on a quiet love affair for 45 years. It's no worry to my husband because this love is for fruitcake — and with a good reason.
This affair renews after the last tidbit of turkey has gone into creamed vegetable soup, which is served at our house a few days after Thanksgiving over the remnants of cornbread stuffing. When you're raised in the southern Appalachian Mountains there is ONLY one stuffing and it's the cornbread kind. My first husband, born in upstate New York and raised in Tampa, scoffed at cornbread stuffing seasoned with sage and fresh ground pepper, so he'd wad up white bread and make a gooey stuffing at which I promptly scoffed. Stuffing didn't push our divorce, but for 16 years it was a needling point.
To my satisfaction, Husband Two almost groans with pleasure over cornbread stuffing, especially when it's soaked in warm turkey and vegetable cream soup — a fitting way to close Thanksgiving weekend.
My husband hasn't embraced fruitcake, but I've been working on that for 25 years. I once had a school principal tell me my middle name should have been "tenacious." Friends and family would probably agree. I blame — or credit, as the situation deems — my Scots-Irish heritage.
I'm yearning for fruitcake and while I'm a capable cook, I've checked fruitcake ingredients and determined it's a pricey venture at upwards of $30, not including alcohol substance for the cake's dousing. Besides, there's a compelling reason to buy a fruitcake and from a specific bakery: Benson's in Bogart, Ga.
I was 4 when, in 1953, my mother brought home a small round decorative tin. I loved the scene on top of a beautiful sleigh pulled by a gray horse, similar to Maude, our workhorse who was gentle as a friendly dog and totally agreeable to my sitting on her back as she and my dad plowed the family garden.
Inside the tin was a fruitcake, breathtaking with red and green cherries in flower designs. I learned delayed gratification early and the fruitcake reinforced it well as days inched toward Christmas.
"Can I see the fruitcake?" I'd frequently ask my mother.
She'd open the bottom door of the huge corner cupboard in our North Carolina farmhouse, slide out the tin and I'd study the novel treat. I don't recall eating that fruitcake, but as years passed, others became holiday regulars.
We were a struggling mountain farm family, and while my mother would frequently reference to my sister, Ann, and me "when you go to college," I don't think anyone had a clue from where college funds would come. But faith and hope were strong and we believed and worked hard in school with the college goal never fading.
In the spring of 1967, shortly before my high school graduation, a letter arrived announcing I would receive a small scholarship from the Franklin Business and Professional Women's Club. I was thrilled, not so much by the money amount but realizing this professional women's group believed I would succeed in college, enough so that they were willing to help.
Money for my scholarship came from the fundraiser sale of Benson fruitcakes.
The following Christmas, a small Benson fruitcake arrived for me at Berea College in Kentucky. My mother reasoned it made good sense to support the club's sales. In years that followed, I bought more cakes from the group. As time passed, I lost contact and I've not had a Benson fruitcake in decades.
Until I found Benson online.
There's now a Benson fruitcake on its way to my Odessa home. I'll enjoy it, but more importantly, I'll recall and be thankful for a group of special women who sold fruitcakes and helped a young mountain girl's dream of college come true.