I can't remember a time when Mother didn't have a big bottle of Watkins Pure Vanilla Extract on a cupboard shelf, and she frowned at any other brand of vanilla. I know she frequently bought other flavorings and spices from the Watkin's product line, especially their black pepper. Normally, the housewives would place an order and the salesman would deliver it the next time he came around, but very often, the salesman was prepared to go back to his car where he had stocked up on many of the best-selling items, and would bring it back to the ladies immediately. He also had a large black "kit" which he carried with him to each home and that might have just what a lady needed right then.
After school started (the day after Labor Day), Mother would begin gathering up her supplies for making the fruitcakes (she made several at the time mixing it all in a huge stainless steel dishpan with her hands). Of course, back then, there was no such thing (to my knowledge) as buying nuts already shelled, so that was one of the things on her "to-do" list before making the cakes. All the nuts had to be bought or traded for, then shelled, chopped and kept in the "ice-box" until the cake-baking day. The fruits would be bought a little at the time as money permitted, and Daddy would start bringing home the various nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts), dried raisins still on dried vines, and dried dates and figs from wherever he found them when he was out on the road.
We used to crack nuts as we listened to the radio. We listened to the radio every evening, long before we even knew anything about TV. Radio brought us the news, the weather, and all our entertainment. We learned all the latest popular or country-western songs from listening to the Grand Old Opry or the Hit Parade. Both my parents loved music and sang to us. They both played the piano, and the harmonica also, and my father could whistle as well as any musician on radio.
Mother also candied a lot of her own fruits such as lemons, oranges, pineapples, and mangoes when she could get them. She never used much citron, but candied watermelon rind after peeling away all the green skin. We lived in Florida, so the citrus was not a problem, but the pineapples had to be purchased. The mangoes grew in Florida, but we didn't have a mango tree, so my aunt and uncle in Ft. Myers sent us huge bushel baskets of them during the mango season. They arrived in an old green Railway Express truck. Watermelons were grown locally, and we either bought them or were given them by Daddy's insurance contacts. During some of the war days, he worked in Tampa at the shipyards, and would buy whole arms of bananas right off the banana boats coming in from the Philippines. He found pineapples in the same area probably also grown in the Philippines maybe. Some of our neighbors would give him money to buy arms of bananas for them too, and he'd come home with the car loaded with bananas, pineapples and often a bag full of Deviled Crab Rolls which were sold on every street corner in Ebor City, the Latin section of Tampa.
My father worked at the shipyards in Tampa until the war was over. He'd learned that because of an earlier brain tumor, he was classified 4-F and wouldn't be allowed to serve in the military. That nearly broke his heart, but he did the next best thing by working to help make the equipment that our soldiers needed to keep the war away from our American soil. He and Mother also taught us to save everything that could be used to make anything the soldiers might need to fight with. We hunted for and saved every scrap of tinfoil and metal of any kind. We'd load it all in anyone who's car had gas and time, so that it could be taken to our elementary school and added to the huge and ever-growing scrap pile on the school grounds. That scrap pile was a great source of pride to every student as we knew we were helping our country win the war.
I've never known a time in America when we all pulled together for the common good and helped one another in so many ways. No one knew when the neighbor next door would get a letter "edged in black" which meant their husband, father, or son had been killed in action. I had older cousins and two uncles who were fighting for all of us. One uncle was injured and sent home with what was left of his right hand after a bomb exploded near enough to almost take his life.
If a neighbor's child needed new shoes, and they had no ration stamps left to get them, someone did without new shoes for a while longer in order to give their leather stamps to that neighbor. People traded sugar stamps for tire or gas stamps, gave up meat stamps and ate more beans and rice to help someone else. We never thought much about it and did it willingly knowing that those people would do the same for us should we be the ones in need. Kids did without gum and candy so that our soldier boys would get a care package from his family, the Red Cross, or some other service organization. Many families like my parents had Victory Gardens, and raised their own chickens for eggs and meat. What one family grew a lot of, was shared or often traded with someone who didn't grow that particular vegetable. Mother traded eggs and fresh dressed chicken for sugar to make jams and jellies, orange marmalade, and batches of tea cakes, then traded some of those things for something else she needed. She baked and shared her famous hot biscuits for syrup which a neighbor had purchased directly from the man who was making it in North Florida. After I was grown, married, and had 3 little daughters of my own, we went to that same place and bought homemade sugar-cane syrup from the elderly man who was still making it with the help of a faithful donkey almost as old as he was.
Anyone traveling to North Florida or Georgia was begged to bring back fresh peaches and pecans during their harvest season. We didn't grow sweet potatoes either, but we grew more green beans than we could eat, so we traded them for sweet potatoes grown in North Florida by someone's relatives. We traded tons of oranges and grapefruits for good fresh sweet corn grown on farms outside my home town of Lakeland, Florida. Mother made the best pickles with green tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and red bell peppers. Sugar, apple-cider vinegar, and whole all-spice were all she used to make them; I've never tasted such wonderful pickles since. A slab of sharp cheddar cheese, a biscuit, and those pickles would make a great lunch even today.
It's nice what memories a simple recipe can bring back. A person can relive the same feelings over again that remain sharp for the rest of their lives. I'm sure that much of today's news will live in today's children's' memories for years in the future, but for me, I don't think anything will ever equal the days of World War 2 and my own childhood. No doubt the same is true for so many others who lived through those days.
Note: I can't remember ever eating the rich fruitcake when I was a child, as there was always special cake for kids which only had raisins in it and was iced with a plain sugar icing that ran down the sides of the cake and had tiny slices of the red candied cherries on the icing. Since Mother's fruitcakes were so heavily laced with some kind of alcohol, I can understand why they were considered "adult cakes". :-) I do remember my father always eating some of what we called his "rat cheese" with the fruitcake. It was a super-sharp cheddar cheese which I did develop a taste for myself and still prefer it over all other cheeses.)
Now for that 1936 Watkins Pound Cake recipe as given from the salesman, as well as my Mother's Fruitcake recipe which she made using that basic pound cake recipe.
Note: Citron was often used because it was cheaper and often available when other candied fruits were not. Feel free to substitute golden raisins (my personal favorite and what my mother used in place of citron which she really didn't care for anyway). You could also substitute the citron with a combination of candied pineapple and cherries which would make an ideal cake for any occasion and are usually available all year in today's food markets.
By Julia from Boca Raton, FL
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Very easy to make, very good. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour tube or bundt pan. Beat shortening and sugar until creamy; add eggs, one at a time.
Easy and delicious. Make pudding using 1 3/4 cups of milk. Cut pound cake or angel food cake in half (middle of cake). When pudding is set, spread half the pudding between the layers.
This is a WONDERFUL Pound Cake recipe passed down from my Sister-in-law's Mother.
Looks like a pound cake but tastes much better.
Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Beat the butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium to high speed until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating 1 minute after each.
Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour, beating until creamy. Beat in vanilla. Spoon into greased and floured tube pan.
Haven't made it yet. Just was on a postcard I got.
Cream butter and sugar together in mixing bowl. Add eggs, flavoring and buttermilk. Sift next 3 dry ingredients together. Add to creamed mixture, mixing well.
Cream softened butter in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually cream in sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat 1 minute after each addition.
Mix together and bake in a greased and floured tube pan at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes to an hour. Do not overcook or cake will be dry. Pour caramel icing over cooled cake.
Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 1 10 inch tube pan and dust with flour. Cream shortening and margarine together. Add sugar and salt gradually.
Recipe for Coconut Pound Cake. Cream shortening and sugar, then add unbeaten eggs, 1 at a time. Add flavoring. Mix flour, salt and baking powder alternately with milk to shortening and sugar mixture. . .
Here's an easy pound cake.
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I am looking for simple but good pound cakes. There are some that can be made with mixes. If you have any great simple ones, could you please share with me?
Deebee from Sicklerville, NJ
I am hoping that one of you cooking and baking enthusiasts has a recipe for 1-2-3-4 Pound Cake. My 84-yr. old father-in-law now lives with us, and has mentioned this particular treat from years. I'd love to be able to make it for him.
Hi Jill! What a precious daughter-in-law you are!!! He is blessed. Look what I found while surfing for your cake recipe. I hope it tastes like the one he remembers. God bless you!!! www.virtualcities.com/
Jill, I submitted the recipe for 1-2-3-4 Pound Cake on Thriftyfun probably sometime between late February-May of this year. If they have archives maybe it's still on file. If you don't locate the recipe I'll DIG IT UP and re-submit it for you.