[This post is preempting my usual beginning of the month to-do list. The one for December is likely to be pretty sparse since with the short amount of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas I don’t expect to accomplish much this month. I will have a short list probably by next week.]

DSC_0009Ok, I admit it.  I am one of the few people in the world who likes fruitcake. There must be others of us but I’m hard pressed to name any of my current family or friends who will admit it, except for one.  I like pretty much any fruitcake – I’m not very particular although it does need to be moist.  I don’t know where I got this apparently rare taste, although I remember my mother eating fruitcake.  She would get a round one in a tin box around Thanksgiving and parcel it out in December.  Maybe my grandparents sent it to her from Texas.  Some years there was fruitcake left to be eaten on New Year’s Eve.  One of my favorites.

Anyway, I do like it.  Years ago a friend discovered this and suggested we make our own.  I was in, although I’d never thought about making it myself until she suggested it.  She comes from a Southern family on her mother’s side, and has great recipes from the Southern ladies who had to learn to cook/bake certain things as part of their upbringing.  There are great cheese straws, for example.  And in her family fruitcake was another required specialty.  So we started Salt, Patricia - XXXX-XX-XX - making fruitcakeour own tradition of making fruitcake the weekend after Thanksgiving.  You have to make them far enough in advance to let them age, and add the cider (or rum or bourbon or whatever) to keep them moist.  We learned through doing that we could make little muffin-fruitcakes and small loaf fruitcakes and bigger loaf fruitcakes.  They were all good.  We also had both a dark fruitcake recipe and a white fruitcake recipe (I think the white one was the more traditional Southern one but I may be wrong).  The dark is my favorite; it’s the one I grew up with.

Louise’s notes say that the recipe we used was developed by her grandmother in the 1930s and is unusual in two ways.  First it doesn’t include any fruit rinds, only candied fruits.  And second, while it does include a small amount of rum for flavor, you age it by seasoning it in apple cider.  It comes out nice and moist but not overly “spirited”. We’d get together on IMGP3789the Saturday after Thanksgiving and with a very large roasting pan or soup pot start the process of mixing up the batter.  The goal was to make enough for each of us to have some for ourselves and some for gifts.  The batter is a very stiff, heavy one and you can’t use an electric mixer to stir it – unless maybe you have an industrial size mixer but neither of us did or does.  So we would take turns putting our muscle into it, until the batter was fully mixed and ready to put into the baking pans.IMGP3791

Then while the cakes were baking, and they take a long time in a slow oven, we’d do something fun.  This usually involved a trip out for lunch and to look at stores someplace like Rockport or Marblehead, MA (wonderful little towns on the ocean) since we had the time.  Now I’m talking about 30 years ago, before shopping Thanksgiving weekend became a competitive sport.

Then somehow we lost touch with each other for a number of years and the fruitcake tradition was lost.  Jobs and where we were living changed.  Happily, a few years ago we reconnected and last year the fruitcake tradition was re-instated.  Or at least she let me come help her.  We made enough to fill 4 loaf pans and the resulting cakes were beautiful.  Unfortunately our timing was bad, and I had to leave before they were finished baking, so she sent me a picture of one later so I’d know they came out as good as ever.  (And she was the one who had to keep basting them with cider until Christmas!)

The Genealogy Gals are taking a vacation (from blogging that is).  Thanksgiving and Christmas are rapidly approaching and we are both a bit overwhelmed.  We will be back in January on our regular weekly schedule, with new and entertaining family stories.  Please come back and see us then.  If we get inspired by something and can manage a quick post before then we will, but for sure in January. In the meantime please scroll though some of our earlier material.  Thanks for reading.

We are alone once more.  My daughter and her boyfriend started their 12 hour voyage back to Virginia this morning.

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving spread over 4 days and I am wallowing in nostalgia.

It is a truism, but sometimes the simplest things are the best.

I love to cook and to try new recipes, but there are strict standards for what goes on the Thanksgiving table around here.

So instead of the lovely new appetizers I thought about we had the Helluva Good Onion dip that my son loves and the goat cheese that my daughter loves.  Somehow both manage to disappear. Then there is the Waldorf salad my daughter makes every year complete with the carved apple swan and the lovely green salad contributed by a friend. This is followed by my niece’s green bean casserole with the fried onions on top and the pureed sweet potatoes.  I snuck in brussel sprouts this year.

Thanks to friends we had heritage breed turkeys this year and a lovely chestnut stuffing.

My sister-in-laws chocolate cake and pumpkin pie were joined by my husband’s apple crisp.

So there were a few new dishes, but mostly the old favorites.

The house could have been cleaner and it would be nice if the roof had actually stopped leaking, but none of that mattered.  In the end we had four days of talk and laughter and the satisfaction of the familiar.

I leave you with a poem by Wendell Berry that my sister-in-law passed along.


I tremble with gratitude

for my children and their children

who take pleasure in one another.


At our dinner together, the dead

enter and pass among us

in living love and in memory.


And so the young are taught.


I’m gearing up to host the family dinner for Thanksgiving this week. We are very lucky to have a lot of family not too far away, many of whom continue to want to get together for the holidays. This year we will have 3 out of 5 original Salt children and their spouses and most of their children. Also a cousin of my husband’s and his family, and a couple of sisters of one of my sisters-in-law and their families. Even the college-age family members show up and bring friends. For this I am thankful (and somewhat amazed).

Although I will be serving a fresh turkey, it isn’t one of these.

Our own local turkey flock

I am also harried, as I try to organize and clean and count knives and forks, and make sure we have enough tables and chairs, etc. I always feel like others in the family do this more easily than I do (whether this is actually true is another question, but I think they all do). Then I remember that I grew up in a family that was removed geographically from any extended family, and we never had more than my parents and the 5 kids at the table for holidays. Wish I had a picture from then. I can only remember a single Thanksgiving when we had a guest, and that was a business associate of my father’s who was in town and couldn’t get home for the holiday. It was a very big deal.

And on Friday I met my sister for lunch and some walking and talking (which we do well), so I didn’t get any of my preparation tasks done. But I did get to go see the Penacook Town Pound in New Hampshire for myself. Also had a lovely walk on a gorgeous fall day. So I count that as a winning day. Town Pounds are something we discovered in western Massachusetts on one of our trips (I wrote briefly about that here) and I will write a post about in the future.

So the furniture moving and room-rearranging has begun and my house will not feel like itself until after the big day. I have to find a different place to sit to read the paper, my place at the table is relocated for the duration, and I am discombobulated. When I have the tables all in place and set I will take a picture of the result, so I can remember how it looked and what worked to create a single table that would seat 22 people. (I know this is not a huge number and that others do meals for many more. I am just used to doing it for 2 or maybe 4 or 6. So I get overwhelmed.)

It’s hard to complain about a wonderful 2-week vacation and then a Thanksgiving that includes many of our family being here for dinner. But I will. With everything else Life has given me, I haven’t had any time to myself to devote to my addiction genealogy – not even to cleaning up piles on my desk, let alone to doing any research. And that is really my only complaint. I can’t wait for Black Friday when I have the house to myself and can sit in front of my computer while the dishwasher and laundry run all by themselves.

It’s Saturday afternoon and they’re gone, not the leftovers, the relatives.  The leftover turkey will last forever.  Have you noticed that every recipe you use to get rid of the turkey actually extends its life?  Its like Zeno’s paradox, you’re always using half of what’s left but it’s never quite gone. Eventually it will turn green and I will dump it.

But there are leftovers that will last longer than the turkey.  Whenever family and friends are together there is talk.  This year the talk remained civil and we’re all still speaking to each other.  This is not the case every year, so there’s something else to be thankful for.

What are leftover this year are questions about my parents.  I was very close to my parents and have always assumed that I knew everything about them.  Wrong!  Of course, in some ways we never really know our parents.  If we’re lucky, they are the boring people who go to work every day and take care of us.  I can see it in my kids eyes, that sense that we never had a different life, one in which we were as crazy and adventurous as they are.  That’s all right, normal even, but there are other things that I don’t know about my parents.

At some point this weekend someone asked to see my parents’ wedding pictures.  I have no pictures of my parents’ wedding. How is this possible?  I have hundreds of pictures of my family including every stage of my parents’ life. The universal response to this lack of photos was, “How can you not have wedding photos, everyone has pictures of their parents’ wedding?”  Not me.  This always seemed perfectly normal to me, whatever you grow up with as a kid is normal.  Not only don’t I have pictures of my parents’ wedding, I don’t know anything about their wedding.  Was it at home, at city hall, at a synagogue?  Who knows? Not me. What a family historian. I have found their marriage listed in an index of Philadelphia marriages and will certainly send for the certificate, but I fear I will never know the details.  There is no scandalous excitement here, no shotgun wedding, no bigamy.  I am sure this was just a normal wedding for its time and place, but I am truly sad and surprised that I never asked my mother about her wedding day.

In my quest to find their marriage certificate I was reminded of the fact that my mother had no birth certificate. A few years ago in order to satisfy some bureaucracy or other that my 97-year-old mother was indeed over 65 I was asked to produce a birth certificate.  I filled out the forms and checked the box that said I needed the certificate for legal reasons.  Just a few days later a very pleasant woman called and informed me that they had no record of my mother’s birth.  There was another Henrietta Silver, born a month earlier to parents with different names.  Did I want that certificate? Not really.  I knew my mother had a social security card, a passport, and a raft of other things that require proof of age, and yet, she had no birth certificate.

I knew that at the end of the holiday I would have more questions than answers, but I never expected to be saying, “My mother, mystery woman.”