By Brad Bowman
Long before iPods, Xboxs and Playstations, Sarah Foree and her family enjoyed the simpler things during the holidays.
Foree and her brother Tom would anticipate Christmas with expectations not filled with images of the latest electronic gadget or fancy clothes dancing in their heads, but the time they spent together as a family preparing for the holidays.
Foree, now 95, has trouble seeing recipes she used over the years to make candy and cakes, but she hasn’t lost sight of the ingredients that made for a merry Christmas and a good life.
“One of our favorite times I like to talk about is the preparation we had for Christmas,” Foree said. “We looked forward to Christmas because it was the one time of the year we got to have the fruitcake we made. It’s a joke now. People joke about the dried fruitcakes people buy and give each other at Christmas, but ours wasn’t like that. The highlight of the season for us was making preparations for the fruitcake.”
Foree grew up in Sulphur and rode in a horse and buggy to school before the family bought a car. Her mother would walk to the Sulphur Grocery Store and purchase the special ingredients for the cake.
“She would buy all kinds of dried fruit that came in crates. We had dates, figs and dried raisins still on the grape cluster vine,” Foree said. “Everyone had a job and their own fruit. My brother, mother and I would sit by the fireplace that had an old grate on it and we would sit there cutting up the fruit. We had hickory nuts we got off of our hickory tree. We would break them up and put the kernels in there.”
The next day Foree’s mother prepared the dough: six eggs, flour and sugar.
“She put other spices in it now that I don’t remember,” Foree said. “She would mix up that dough, it wasn’t a lot of dough, and she mixed the fruit in with it. She would put the cake in a cake pan in a lard can with water underneath it and cook it with steam.”
The recipe called for several pounds of fruit, which resulted in about a 10-pound fruitcake, Foree said. The family enjoyed the seasonal cake — a delicacy her and her brother only enjoyed once a year.
“Back then that fruitcake was our treasure. You didn’t just take a slice off of it and let it dry out. We took care of it,” Foree said. “It’s much different than the fruitcake you get now. That cake you get in a store is dry as a bone. Children have lost something that was dear to us when we were children. You looked forward to Christmas for the least little thing and were appreciative of it when you got it. Kids don’t even think about doing those kinds of things now or appreciate what they have. They just tear through their presents and toss them in the corner — moving on to the next one. You knew you were going to have that fruitcake whether you got anything else for Christmas or not.”
The quality of time and material things should matter more than the quantity of possessions for Foree. She applies the same principle to living a good life.
“People spend too much time and money living beyond their means — having things they really can’t afford,” Foree said. “We worked hard for what we had and we didn’t just get rid of it if it broke down. We learned how to fix things, or found someone that did, and we took care of them. I’m thankful that I can still remember those things. Everything today people want to talk about is called a ‘new technology,’ but there’s a lot of lessons people can learn from the past.”