The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 17 No. 12 - January 4, 2017


Christmas fruitcakes

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


Fig and walnut bread is a great holiday treat.


My uncle George was the closest thing I had to a grandfather.

He was the oldest son in my mother's family of 10 children.

He thought of my dad as a little brother.

My dad had a printing company. As a side venture he sold advertising specialties – stuff that businesses gave away as marketing pieces – key chains, calendars, those plastic things to scrape snow off your windshield. Our Jewish friends called them "tchotchkes."

At Christmas time a lot of businesses gave away Christmas fruitcakes under the misapprehension that people liked to eat them, and they would think fondly of their business or product.

Dad got a heck of a price on the fruitcakes because he sold so many of them, so dad gave all of our relatives fruitcakes for Christmas.

We were Irish Catholics.

My maternal grandmother had 10 kids, all married, and about 40 grandchildren. Then there was dad's side. Ten more kids. Forty more grandchildren.

That's a boat load of fruitcakes.

Dad would deliver fruitcakes to all the relatives. They would pretend to be grateful.

Uncle George would then drive around and gather up all those fruitcakes.

George would take them back to a big shed he kept out in back of his house near his dock. The shed was a house of wonders that doubled as a boathouse and laboratory. He called it his office. Uncle George did most of his best and most diabolical work and all of his fruitcakes in the office.

George would open the cake tins and then he would pour rum into the tins until the cake was almost completely submerged.

After letting the cakes sit for a couple of days George poured off most of the unabsorbed rum into jars and replaced the lids on the cake tins.

Uncle George called the rum in the jars George's Christmas Rum.

Uncle George then delivered all the fruitcakes back to the relatives as his Christmas gifts.

Everyone welcomed George in from the cold, shared a little nip of George's Christmas Rum from the jars, and thought the cakes vastly improved.

One year he topped off the cakes with 151 proof rum instead of his regular navy dark.

He went out through the snow to the office to check on the cakes, lit a cigar, and blew himself out of the shed.

The cakes were a little smoky that year. Everyone hailed it as a great innovation.

I miss my uncle George, especially this time of year. Maybe it's the fruitcakes.

So if someone gave you a Christmas fruitcake this year – take heart.

Fix that cake up with a little rum – uncle George style.

Have a sip of Uncle George's Rum and toast him for me.

Stay away from the 151.

Sean Murphy is an aging restaurateur who writes occasionally to embarrass his children. Sean gets to work with the wonderful people who run the Beach Bistro, Eat Here and the team's new bar – The Doctors' Office.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper