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?
This article is part of a series written in celebration of the Advent and Christmas seasons. It will be included as part of the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2009 Day 14: Fruitcake. Make a visit to Thomas MacEntee's GeneaBloggers website for some additional inspiration to get yourself in the holiday spirit!
The article originally appeared here at Small-leaved Shamrock and was included in Thomas MacEntee's Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2007.