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A fruitcake recipe that's been passed down the family for generations


We've been sharing audience kitchen favorites in a series called All Things We're Cooking, a clever play on the title for a daily show for which B.J. Leiderman also did the theme music. Today, Ellie King of Pittsburgh tells us about a fruitcake. That's a recipe that's been in her family for generations.


ELLIE KING: My grandma Phoebe was very strict. Fruitcake was the Christmas dessert. You know, my mom remembers making it with my grandma Phoebe in her kitchen. I like to think of it as, like, my mom's introduction to the family. You know, she's sort of being adopted into this family and let in on the family tradition of making fruitcake. The original recipe makes 10 pounds of fruitcake, so it's, like, an astounding amount of fruitcake. No one can remember exactly where it came from, but the family legend is that Great-Grandmother Dimock, like, handwrote a copy of this fruitcake recipe and mailed it to Grandma Phoebe somewhere around World War II. When I was a kid, I didn't like fruitcake. But I love it now.

My mom's family is from Iowa, and her dad was a big cyclist. And he loved to do sort of the Midwest bike rides. So we decided one year - you know, he was getting pretty old. And we decided, you know, since he can't ride anymore, we're going to ride - me and my parents and my then-boyfriend. He's now my husband. And we needed a team name. And I was trying to think of, like, something that represents our family. And I was like, you know what? Fruitcake.

In 2020, when my husband and I were thinking about getting married, we didn't want, like, a traditional sort of wedding. We wanted to do something kind of wacky and fun. And so we decided we were going to get married on RAGBRAI, the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. And then, obviously, everything got canceled because of COVID, and we weren't able to do RAGBRAI that year. And then, in 2021, we invited everyone who was going to ride with us in 2020 to do RAGBRAI with us as sort of Team Fruitcakes 2.0. So I baked a lot of fruitcake that summer, and I packed it all up. We had a ton of fun, and it was a really nice way to introduce fruitcake to, like, a bunch of family and friends that didn't know anything about fruitcake.

The idea that, you know, the women in my family, like, going back generations have been making this - 'cause I think a lot of times, women's stories sort of get overshadowed by, you know, the men in their lives especially if the men are, you know, successful and have wonderful jobs and things like that. And so it's - to me, it's sort of a way of honoring their stories - my grandma, my great-grandma, even my aunt and my mom. Like, it's a way of thinking about them.

SIMON: Ellie King of Pittsburgh - you can try out her fruitcake recipe and others from our series if you search All Things We're Cooking at Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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