Fruitcake Weather: Truman Capote's Christmas Memory

Fruitcake Weather: Truman Capote's Christmas Memory

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Faith Durand
Dec 1, 2006

It's the first of December and it's fruitcake weather, so I've been thinking this week about Truman Capote's famous short essay, A Christmas Memory, about baking fruitcakes as a child with his favorite relative.

"A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable - not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, "it's fruitcake weather!"

I love this piece: the wistful memories of childhood, the sharp-edged, woodsmoky descriptions of cold air and hot stoves, the note of menace, comically defused, of Mr. Haha Jones, the whiskey man. It ushers in the melancholy of the winter, only partially warmed by the holidays and friends, and makes me sigh for a piece of fruitcake from Buddy and Sook.

One of Capote's aunts later published a book of fruitcake recipes, reminiscing about her relatives and even showing up on the Tonight Show as The Fruitcake Lady. You can see her book at Amazon. It's supposed to be wonderful, but I like to imagine that one of Capote's childhood fruitcakes would have tasted better than anything I could make myself.

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