Memories of a Christmas cake : The Tribune India

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Memories of a Christmas cake

Memories of a  Christmas cake

Photo for representation. File photo

Buddhadev Nandi

MY friend Anupam belonged to an Anglo-Indian family. Every year, he would visit Kolkata in the run-up to Christmas and go to a Park Street bakery, which was renowned for its fruitcakes. He would save from his paltry salary bit by bit all over the year so as to treat his friends to the fruitcake prepared under his careful supervision. We would always look forward to spending the evening at Anupam’s house on Christmas Day.

His attention would always be on the composition and preparation of the cake. He believed that the essence of a fruitcake was in the wealth of dried fruit it contained. Therefore, he would never allow the baker to buy the ingredients. Visiting exclusive shops and stores in Kolkata, Anupam would purchase high-quality flour, walnuts, pecans, almonds, pine nuts, raisins, apricots, dates, currants, cherries and even specially preserved lemon peels.

He would never fail to visit the bakery during the mixing of the ingredients supplied by him and baking of the cake as well. He would ensure that the batter comprising eggs, molasses, fruit juice and liquor (rum and brandy) was mixed perfectly. He would wait until a long skewer inserted into the centre of the cake came out with a few moist crumbs.

Finally, the wait would be over. On December 25, his house would be decorated with chains of colourful small lights, giving the place the perfect Christmas look. A huge portrait of baby Jesus in the lap of Mother Mary would adorn one of the walls, with big candles glowing in stands underneath it. Tinsel stars of different hues would glitter in dim candlelight. A recording of melodious Christmas psalms was the cherry on the cake. Anupam would get some chairs from the decorator’s house so that many of his friends could sit together and enjoy the evening. We would touch the feet of his octogenarian mother and she would bless us by saying: ‘Live long, my son.’

By that time, my olfactory system would be tantalised by the fragrance of the fruitcake. After relishing the cake as well as frothy coffee, we would listen to the Christmas story narrated by Anupam every year. It was always the same yet somehow sounded different.

For the past decade, I have been deprived of the opportunity to spend such a joyous Christmas evening. My beloved, cherubic friend died of multi-organ failure. Though he is no longer in this world, I still feel his presence and recall the aroma of his special fruitcake on Christmas Day.

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