She’s torn between her reverence for a family recipe and her aversion to strong drink.

She’s torn between her reverence for a family recipe and her aversion to strong drink.

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The holiday season presents a prickly moral dilemma for my mother. Her signature dessert is a meticulously faithful execution of Great-Aunt Margaret’s Christmas fruitcake recipe, which must be soaked in peach brandy. But Mama’s a Southern Baptist, so drinkin’s a sin.  Nary a drop of alcohol is ever allowed in her home (though she has been known to allow herself a sip of champagne punch in MY home, provided it was made from a Southern Living recipe and therefore sin-free).

Why not simply forego the brandy? Because Aunt Margaret decreed that the fruitcake must be soaked, and soaked it shall be. Even though this venerable family cook passed away many years ago, we dare not tinker with her time-honored dessert. Somehow, Aunt Margaret would know. And she would NOT be pleased.

At first, Mama had my cousin’s husband purchase the spirits for her, insisting that he deliver them to her back door, just in case anyone from the church might drive by during the drop. But then her bag man up and moved down to the coast, leaving Mama without a supplier. For a while, Daddy had to pinch hit, but that was never an ideal solution—guilt by association and all that.

Finally, I remedied her situation by getting married. (I’m not saying I wed my beloved because Mama needed a brandy runner, but the marriage did work in her favor.) And y’all, this is some more recipe. My uncle swears (swunnies?) that he can get high off a single slice of brandy-soaked fruitcake. It’s not that strong. But it’s definitely soaked, so maybe you could get stewed if you have one (slice) too many.

Though the brandy delivery issue is resolved, yet another fruitcake controversy is brewing. Mama noticed a suspicious drop in the brandy level from one Christmas to the next and accused Daddy of sipping. His defense: “That’s just normal evaporation.”

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You can rest assured that it's not "tweezer food" or anything with wheatgrass in the ingredient list. We'd be willing to bet sugar's involved. But that's just an educated guess.