It’s Fruitcake Weather

Today and tomorrow is the first Fruitcake Festival in Monroeville. This is how the organizers are describing it:

The event is a celebration of Truman Capote and the holiday dessert immortalized in his enduring holiday classic, “A Christmas Memory.”

The festival includes fruitcake sales and auctions, recipe exchanges, Capote-related Christmas gifts and even a fruitcake toss on the courthouse lawn.

As a special treat, Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Neal and Broadway actor Joel Vig will present a dramatic reading of ” A Christmas Memory” Friday, Nov. 14, 7 p.m., in the courtroom. Tickets for the reading are $35 and include a fruitcake reception with Miss Neal. To purchase tickets, please contact our friendly staff at (251) 575-7433.

I read that the festival is to help “return the fruitcake to its rightful place as the Queen of the Christmas dessert table”. There’s a recipe for Sook’s fruitcake in Sook’s Cookbook, which I have – the pic of it is above, it’s the first edition from 1989 and is pretty hard to find – but it was reissued in September of this year by LSU Press. It includes the recipe for Sook’s fruitcake. There’s another book that Marie Rudisill wrote with other fruitcake recipes (she was Truman’s aunt – she was 13 and living with Jenny Faulk in Monroeville when he as an infant came to live there also – Marie was best known as the saucy “Fruitcake Lady” on The Tonight Show).

There’s a great article the St. Petersburg Times did back in 2000 with Marie Rudisill about the family. Here’s part:

“Jenny took care of the whole family because not another member of that family worked,” Rudisill says. “None of them. She was mean as she could be, but she was a remarkable woman.”

In Haunting, Rudisill describes Jenny: “She had frosty blue eyes, hair the color of red oak leaves in autumn, and skin like a china doll, translucent in its dazzling whiteness. Her hands were strong and squarish with faint freckles, like a pear ready to be picked. She was born as stylish as a tomcat with white paws and waistcoat. She was on the short side, but her sharp tongue gave her added stature.”

She rented rooms above the store. Those who fell behind on their rent, she yelled at “so all the town could hear.”

Once, Jenny disapproved of a suitor who came to call on Callie. “He pulled up in a buggy to take Callie for a ride,” Rudisill says, “and Jenny went outside and grabbed a horse whip and horse-whipped him right there in town.

“She was a holy terror, I’m not kidding you. She controlled the whole family. If it hadn’t been for her, I don’t know what would have happened to us. All of us.”

Capote came to Jenny Faulk’s house as an infant and lived there until he was 7.

“Truman always claimed that every story he ever wrote came out of his head,” Rudisill says. “Well, that’s a damn lie. The stories that came out of Truman’s head were stories that were based on his childhood in Monroeville, Ala.”

Sook figures prominently in Capote’s short story A Christmas Memory and is the model for Dolly Talbo in Capote’s favorite story, The Grass Harp, about three whimsical characters who escape to their own reality by living in a treehouse on the edge of the woods. Verena is the spitting image of Jenny. Collin Fenwick is a self-portrait of the young Capote; Catherine is based on the family cook.

“That’s the No. 1 book as far as I’m concerned,” Rudisill says. “That’s the book he loved the best.”

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