Theo and I were driving regional roads heading to Hamilton from her home in Welland. I'm in my late teens. The car was a boat, had a long front end. I asked my uncle Peter last night what she drove. He told me my grandfather Harry — who didn't have a driver's license — liked being a passenger in a flash vehicle,
"I recall Theo had this yellow Chrysler with a 383 cu in engine. Fucking thing just flew."
I laughed hard reading his text. It's a gold-star image. Brought me right back. Theo behind the wheel of a car like a Newport, Fifth Generation, handkerchief scarf tied over her permed hair, and smoking a Peter Jackson.
So, Theo and I are driving. It was around this time of year, November. There wasn't much snowcap on the fields in the Niagara peninsula. It's when she told me about loving trees in the winter even more than in summer — when they were leafless and skeletal. She talked about the shape of the trees we looked at out the front window. The winter landscape changed for me that day.
I loved winter running in Stratford, on days when the sky was azure, and the sun bleached snow was soft serve white. Our breath made ice clouds — like comic book speech bubbles. Sweat turned to frost on our running clothes.
Cake, again. A winter hobby. A good reason for a long walk.
I made Christmas cake on Friday night. The fruit was macerating for a month — 775 grams of golden raisins, dried cherries, apricots, currants, mixed peel, and a shiver of candied ginger. My favourite combination. The recipe is from early Nigella. (There's a photo in the cookbook, Feast, of the only time I met her — in the early 2000s.)
Fruitcake is a seasonal gift to myself. I love the recipe so much that I'm careful to not give too much away. There's a limit to my generosity. I'm not looking to change your mind if you don't like it. The dried fruit alone cost me $35 at Bulk Barn.
One of the brilliant cooks I follow in England shared an Instagram photo last year of a slice of fruitcake served with an aged and crumbling farmhouse cheddar. Now I'm stuck on it. Dried fruit and sharp cheese are a happy marriage.
I've never done the fondant icing. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate it. Fruitcake is a matter of preference. The baker's imprint is on it.
(I also bought all the ingredients to re-make the almond cake. Stay tuned on Instagram next week for Part Two, where I redeem myself.)
I'm trying to increase my satisfaction with small things. And spend more time outside noticing the shape of trees. A strategy for the holidays.
I've played this song so often this week that it runs in my blood. I hope it brings you a heap of clotted cream pleasure. Oxford American showed me the way to Ethel Cain. After reading the bijou piece, look for the ballad, A House in Nebraska.
"Listening feels like eavesdropping on a confession Ethel is only ready to tell herself."
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