Good Eats #1

For a number of years, I copied out interesting recipes by hand in a series of small books with lined pages and casebound covers. Many of them came from cooking magazines, such as Gourmet, but many came from the pages of various newspapers, to include the Stars and Stripes – from which I dimly recall reading one for a heavy, dark Caribbean Christmas fruitcake. It is in my mind that the woman who had originated it had a nice local business making and selling these fruitcakes – perhaps she had a cookbook published, and the S&S had merely published an extract from it. Anyway, I copied the recipe from a clipping, into the oldest of my hand-written books, which dates from my first hitch in the Air Force.

Caribbean Dark Fruitcake

Combine and put through a meat grinder, using a medium blade:

1 pound dark raisins

1 pound currents

1 pound pitted prunes

1 pound glace cherries


Moisten the ground fruits as you go with a dollop of rum from a 1 quart bottle of rum, and when completely ground, mix with the remainder of the bottle. Cover tightly, or place in a sealed glass jar, and steep in a dark place for at least two weeks or up to a year.


Cream together

1 pound butter

1 pound brown sugar

1 pound eggs (about a dozen)

Add and mix gently with:

The ground and rum-steeped fruit

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

1 lb sifted flour

3 oz burnt sugar (sugar cooked to dark and mixed with water to dissolve)

Grease and flour two 10-inch springform pans. Fill pans and bake at least 2 hours at 350°, until cake tester comes out clean. Remove from pan, let cool, and pour ¼ of a bottle of tawney port on each cake. Let absorb, pour on remainder of port on each cake. Wrap in plastic wrap (not tinfoil!) and age at room temperature for at least a week or two.

I made these cakes for several years running – it made a heavy, dense brown cake, which several of my friends at the time loved because it wasn’t the usual fruitcake of indigestible lumps of sugar-glazed fruit. One of my friends stored hers in the deep freezer, but it was too alcohol-sodden to freeze entirely and remained soft. I meant to submit this recipe to this cookbook, but the time ran away from me before I could.

8 thoughts on “Good Eats #1”

  1. “steep in a dark place for at least two weeks or up to a year.”
    “age at room temperature for at least a week or two.”

    Making that cake would certainly be a vote of confidence in the Future!

  2. Steep up to a year. Too much alcohol to freeze. No nuts. I like this! It reminds me of the base cake recipe for a traditional British wedding cake, though I think the fruits are left whole.

  3. I have the 1945 US NAVY Cookbook. Some of recipes look marvelous, but the recipes are for 100 servings!

  4. My mother in law bequeathed us my now treasured “Gitmo Cookbook”. Not for the recopies which were Ok US standard with a slight Cuban influence, but as a glimpse into Navy life on the Guantanamo Base in the 1960s. It was then a plum posting with lots of recreation, a very large post and services since you could not go off base to shop and a great Caribbean climate.

  5. I had for years a collection of Gourmet’s travel articles. Many of the places were on my list when I traveled. I cut them out and saved them by country.

  6. My grandfather was an auctioneer. The legit kind, not the modern crooks. He generally handled estate sales, because he said the inheritors didn’t whine as much about how much they got, as the “current owners” generally did…

    He also did absolute auctions, that is, if the bid was one buck, it sold for one buck. No “reserve”. Didn’t matter if it was a pound of 24k gold jewelry (yeah, that would never happen, but that was the point… if only one person wanted it, it went for what it went for). And he did not put his own people (or allow people — owner’s reps) to be in the audience bidding things up.

    So he got lots of people to show up routinely at his sales, because they knew they could get some good deals, sometimes, if not often. He also did a fairly labor-intensive job of managing the lots to give them good sale value… If he had a half-dozen tools he knew were good, he’d put them into collections with other stuff that might be “junk”, but would appeal to some people and prevent the lot from going too low, just because multiple people would want what was in it.

    Anywho — one such couple had come to his auctions for decades — for at least 30+ years, since I was in my mid-30s at the time, and could remember them at sales (which I would work as a runner, often) when I was a little kid.

    Unfortunately, the man had a stroke, and then, after 3-5 years, passed away, after having been seriously debilitated by the stroke. Very sad, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.

    His wife was a MASSIVE fan of cooking. She had an entire small bedroom — probably 15’x20″, filled with shoulder-high file cabinets of clipped-out recipes (like Sgt. Mom describes) along with various hand-made, folded and stapled “local cookbooks” that she’d picked up at different podunk stops (i.e., crossroads general stores, the like), as well as probably a thousand serious “published” glossy cookbooks.

    Unfortunately, that last part of her life had to have been pretty close to hell, since, due to the stroke, her husband could not be kept near anything cooking… it would trigger him salivating and he’d choke on his own saliva!!… so here she is, caring for him, and he hangs on for several years until he finally passes away, and then she’s too infirm to be on her own any more… And all that time she cared for him, she couldn’t do one of the things she enjoyed the most in all the world.

    I know all this because my mother, who took over my father’s business, handled the sale of their estate, as they prepared to take her to a nursing home.

    Sad, and it’s unfortunate there was no one around to take over that massive life’s work of collecting all those recipes.

  7. OBH – how sad, that she couldn’t cook! And that vast collection of cookbooks, too. Honestly, a food historian could have done a whole series of projects out of it. I have a largish collection too, but the ones I use day to day number about half a dozen…

    A friend of ours took us to an estate auction in the Hill Country a couple of years ago. Oh, my, you could have outfitted a good few rooms in a house with nice-ish vintage furniture and not broken $500. There was a nice Queen Anne style armchair with rather battered upholstery which went for 5$. I think the one item that attracted the liveliest bidding was a brass floor lamp that broke a couple of hundred.

    The Daughter Unit and I resisted getting into any sort of bidding war. We marked our lots – and yes, the auction house had mixed the nice stuff with a dollop of *junk* – but the closest we came to being reckless was for a box of three vintage and antique glass vases, including a glass basket. We paid a whole $25, and realized how antique shops made their nut … going to country auctions and marking up their purchases.

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