Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Cake from Dave and Sandra

When I signed the receipt on his digital device and the Fedex deliveryman handed me the package, the last link of my last remaining bond with the family Christmas traditions of my youth was completed. The package from my youngest sibling, Dave, would contain the Christmas cake he sends me every year without fail. It had traveled the past twenty hours from the Tropical heat and rain of Trinidad, been prodded, probed and sniffed by US Customs, transferred in the dead of night at some snowbound airport somewhere in mid-USA. Now it was in my hands, no longer a package but a bond with long past Christmases and parents and siblings gone or scattered.


Dave has found a way to get this Christmas cake to me every year for decades. It has not always been convenient for him. One of the most memorable episodes was the Christmas when he used his valuable pass he earned by working for an airline to fly most of a day and all night to bring it to my home in California, just about collapse on the sofa in the livingroom for a few hours of sleep and fly all those hours again back to Trinidad to be with his family.

I refuse to call this cake a fruitcake. A traditional Trinidad Christmas cake bears as much resemblance to that often derided concoction we know as a fruitcake here as a Rolls Royce to a battered Yellow taxicab.

It is black or almost black in color from the liquid "burnt sugar" used in the batter. I suppose the culinary term would be caramelized sugar, but it was always called burnt sugar when I was a kid and vied to lick the remnants of batter from the mixing bowl. It was always pure coarse brown cane sugar, burnt in a blackened cast iron pot. The raisins, currants, prunes, cherries, citron and other fruits the cake is made of blend into a heavenly aromatic dark mush after soaking for days in cherry brandy and rum. After baking the cake, more like a pudding in consistency is kept moist until eaten by more infusions of those spirits.

The thorough house cleaning, painting and varnishing, the presents Santa used to leave under the bed and the family under the Christmas tree, the Midnight Mass in the old parish church across the street, the merry crowds of family and friends, the lustily sung Christmas Carols, the toasting and the Christmas cake that signified Christmas, I have been separated from, except for this cake.

This afternoon as I enjoy a generous slice with my tea out here in the Pacific Northwest it will be a reunion of sorts with a joyful Christmas Past.

Thanks Dave and Sandra and a Very Merry Christmas to All.

8 comments:

Pak Idrus said...

Louis, that is one piece of news that made my day. Not many brothers would go to that extend that Dave did. His thoughts and the action he took to get that jewel of a cake to you every Christmas is an act that I would describe as having a beautiful heart. Commendable indeed.

Here in Kuala Lumpur the market is flooded with Christmas cakes from abroad and local made as well. I did bought a Fruit cakes yesterday that almost look like the one your brother send.

Merry Christmas to Elena and You. Have a nice day.

louis said...

Idrus,

"..a beautiful heart". What a wonderful way to express that, and I agree, he does have such a heart. I will make sure he sees your comment.

KL is a delightful city, celebrating so many cultures, so many choices. Your stomach must be totally better now, seeing that you are putting some fruitcake into it. That's good news.

Thanks from Elena and me for your Christmas wishes.

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

What a thoughtful and loving gesture from your brother, Louis! What a heart-warming post! I wonder if I can get an authentic T&T Christmas cake in Malaysia. I reckon my parents would love one. I buy them a Christmas fruitcake each year, one that is heavy with fruit and alcohol.
Wishing you, Elena and all at home the happiest of Christmasses. With love from my home to yours.

louis said...

Hi CO'78,
I agree, and I am glad I have told him my appreciation. I will pass on your thoughtful comment too.

Trinidad doesn't seem to market its home-grown products well if at all. Probably the only one known worldwide is Angostura Bitters, and I am sure most customers don't even know it is from Trinidad. I may be a chauvinist, but Trinidad produces finer rums than Puerto Rico or Jamaica, but I have yet to find one on sale in a cruiseship shop even on cruises in the Caribbean.

That fruitcake you give your parents though seems to be on the right track:) Just avoid the ones labelled "rum cake" made for tourists that are nothing but a flavorless sponge cake with some, I suspect, artificial, rum flavor added.

Many thanks for your Christmas wishes, and we do wish you the same.

Sharifah said...

Hi Louis, what a wonderful story. I think for "far-flung" people like us, connections to home mean so much. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

louis said...

Sharifah,

Wishing you and your family a very Happy Holiday and all the best in 2011.

Yes, those connections do mean a lot.

Hope your rain has subsided. Is S. California trying to rival Seattle:)?

Pat said...

Hi Louis,

Your brother is an angel. I think nothing says love more than that does. And it would make the fruit cake all the more delicious - because it carries so much more with each bite, than the mere fruit and grog!

Your memories of Christmases past echo mine - we did the same things as you did, except that Santa Claus left his presents in an old pillowcase we left at the bottom of our beds!

I'd carry on that tradition with my children - so one present went into the pillowcase, and the others went under the tree :)

Chuan and I love fruitcake, and my fruitcake, this year, is sitting in a few homes, one as far away as Singapore! Nice, eh?!

Merry Christmas to you and Elena - may it be filled with joy and love.

louis said...

Pat,

Thanks for your beautiful Christmas wishes. Elena and I wish you and Chuan a very merry Christmas and a very fulfilling new year.

Your fruitcakes must be delicious. It's so thoughtful of you to share them so widely.

I wonder how your pillowcase tradition came about? Unique. All those Christmas preparations: the varnishing, painting, etc have been so ingrained that I still feel a twinge of guilt now that I don't do them.

Yes, Dave and Sandra are special and that makes all the difference with this cake:)

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