I don't know too much about the holiday feasts that were held by my Irish Pennsylvania side of the family. They had come early from Ireland to America (pre-famine) around 1820. I have always wondered just how many of their Irish traditions they clung to after so many years.
One family member who spent many Thanksgiving dinners with the Cowheys in Mount Carbon as a child has fond memories about those holidays. I asked her what types of foods she remembered, wondering whether or not they served traditional Irish fare or food with a more Pennsylvania flavor. Her answer: "Depression-era food".
Makes sense. The family had lived through tough times. Money was tight and the Cowhey family always had many, many mouths to feed. The most memorable items on the menu were two recipes I had never heard of: Poor Man's Fruitcake and Tomato Soup Cake.
Poor Man's Fruitcake lives up to its name: made with fruit but not so expensive as regular fruitcake. There's a nice recipe and description of it courtesy of Sally Jameson and her Pennsylvania grandmother on this Southern Maryland webpage. (Scroll down to the 5th recipe.)
Tomato Soup Cake may sound strange, but according to Food Network chef Emeril Lagasse, it is a favorite of spice cake lovers. See his 3-generation-old recipe for Tomato Soup Cake.
Sometimes it is the simplest things that bring the most pleasure, especially during the Christmas season. But who would have thought it would be a can of tomato soup for dessert?
The topic for this post was inspired by Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories at Destination: Austin Family. Check out his calendar daily this month for some good mini-memoirs of this nostalgic season. This post will be listed under Holiday Foods on December 3.