Today is my father's seventieth birthday. Known now by the family mostly as Papa, he remains one of the smartest, handsomest, most complicated men I know. I love him madly.
The fourth child of Temple Dee La Grone and Arizona (Zona) Mae Davis La Grone, both of Deadwood-- that's Deep East Texas, y'all; Panola County-- Joe Ben is the one remaining member of the family, having been preceded in death by both parents, as well as brothers Marlon Venson and Troy Howard, and sister, Temple Mae (not in that order.)
The last number of years, I've tried to replicate Zona's ice box fruit cake as Daddy's birthday gift. He, my father, has most of what he needs, and much of what he wants. Attempting to recreate this family specialty is both a show of practicality, and of devotion, to both him, AND to his mother, and his memory of her.
I'll be doing this next week when our family is all together, and though I've written of it previous, I have also improved on the recipe, and include it below for those of you willing to try.
The updated recipe:
ALMOST ZONA's ICE BOX FRUIT CAKE
2 boxes graham crackers
1 lb. mini marshmallows
1 stick butter
2 cans Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 bag sweetened coconut
1 lb. pecan halves & pieces, toasted
2 lbs. mixed candied fruit (green & red cherries, pineapple)
1/2 lb candied pineapple
2 jars maraschino cherries w/ juice
Bust up graham crackers into crumbs-- I squished them in wrapper packs, then used a potato masher; it is not necessary to pulvarize them into itty bitty crumbs. Put this in a giant bowl. Add all dry ingredients.
Over medium-low heat, melt marshmallows w/ stick of butter and can of condensed milk.
Pour wet ingredients over dry. Mix. When it's cool, use your hands. Infuse with LOVE.
Press mixture into big buttered tupperware (or two) and refrigerate at least over night.
Each time you wish to eat some, pull cake out of fridge and cut into hunks or pieces. It's craaazy good, craaaazy dense.
Recipe subject to improvements and tweaks!