Christmas Cakes in September…and Memories of Cakes Past

14 Sep

I went into the Coles supermarket at the Victoria Gardens mall here in Melbourne on Saturday and got a nasty shock whilst traversing the bakery department.  There, sitting quietly in their own display bin were Christmas cakes.  Not simply plain fruit cakes such as are available all year.  Oh no, these were iced up all pretty with the words “Merry Christmas” endorsed across the top.

I scampered quickly through the department, my mind reeling in horror.  It’s only the second week in bloody September!  How can they justify placing Christmas cakes on sale now?  I consoled myself with the thought that, maybe, just maybe, it was an isolated incident.

I. Was. Wrong.

Yesterday I went into the local Woolworths supermarket, again having to journey through their bakery department to get to my destination.  To my incredulous horror Woolworths was even worse than Coles.  I couldn’t see Christmas cakes BUT there were Christmas puddings stacked in festive little piles,   And mince pies.  Including imported English mince pies, just to give the whole affair an international flavour.

And those bloody ubiquitous rum balls.  God knows why supermarkets seem to associate rum balls purely with Christmas.  Just about every woman in my family has their own personal variation on rum balls which are produced at every family get together.  The rum levels vary from “Are you sure there’s actual rum in this?” to “Jesus! Did you drown these in a bloody distillery?”  My mother’s were at the distillery end of the spectrum.  Between the balls and mum’s boiled fruitcake, the local bottle shop tended to run out of rum before December 24th.  Most of it was in mum’s baked goods.  Never mind “peace and goodwill”, when my mother distributed her festive fare to the neighbours the usual result was “pissed and insensible”.

My father, bless him, was not a heavy drinker.  The occasional beer after a hard day’s work, and a whisky on special occasions.  Two slices of my mum’s Christmas cake tended to leave him sleeping on the couch for most of Christmas Day!  Friend’s were wise.  When they came to have a drink and nibbles with us on Christmas morning, they would carefully take a piece of cake home with them.  Eating it before driving could result in the loss of your driver’s license if the cops caught you.  My mother’s cake should have come with an official police warning.

Not that mum could see that her cake was borderline lethal.  She didn’t drink, apart from the occasional glass of sherry, and rarely did more than nibble at a tiny piece of her cake, so she never got the full belt of it.  One of my enduring memories of her cake preparations is the finished cake sitting in its tin, whilst mum stabbed it viciously with a knitting needle, then poured rum down the holes!  This was done several times in the run up to Christmas Day.  When you lifted the lid of the tin the escaping vapours were enough to get you completely shickered.

I learned young to avoid her cake  After getting comprehensively sloshed on a slice of it at age six.  I still view any fruit cake as being intrinsically evil and not to be trusted.

The same way I view anyone trying to sell me Christmas goodies three months before Christmas.

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