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Stalin, Mao and your mother's fruitcake

Toys, leftover fruitcake, department store Santas, toy store mobs, last minute shoppers, enormous light displays and faith restored — it's all part of the rich tradition of Christmas. Over the years, CBC Radio and Television have documented the spiritual and material aspects of the ever-evolving Christmas holiday. 'Tis the joyous, and sometimes maddening, season of giving.

What do Stalin, Mao, Queen Elizabeth, Lester Pearson, Dwight Eisenhower and your mother have in common? According to CBC Radio's Kate Aitken, these are the leaders we turn to both collectively and individually as 1953 draws to a close. It's a new year and Aitken is looking at the holiday season that has just passed and the year ahead in this quirky juxtaposition. From negotiating war to being vigilant about presenting an attractive dinner table, these decision-makers shape our future.

Proving herself to be the master of the segue, Aitken switches gears and speaks to her lady leaders listening at home about the grave subject of the future of the stale fruitcake. She describes how to convert old, dried up fruitcake leftovers into a luscious "stop and go" dessert. "You stop just long enough to pick up your spoon," she says, "and you go until the last crumb is eaten!"
• Plum cake, a different type of Christmas cake, has a storied past. In the 18th century, laws were enacted restricting the preparation and consumption of plum cake at all times except for Christmas, Easter, christenings, weddings and funerals. It is rumoured that Queen Victoria indulged just once a year as a sign of restraint.

• Traditional fruitcake recipes call for raisins, dried dates, candied cherries, orange rind, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, nuts and alcoholic liquors. Dense and heavy, fruitcake is traditionally covered with a thick layer of almond icing.

• Kate Aitken first became a well-known radio broadcaster during the Depression. With a deep knowledge of homemaking, she advised her listeners on child-rearing, recipes and etiquette. Aitken's career flourished and she also crossed over into television broadcasting. Aside from dispensing tips in home economics, she interviewed powerful leaders — notably Hitler, Mussolini, King George VI, Mackenzie King, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lester Pearson. Aitken passed away on Dec. 11, 1971 in Streetsville, Ont.
Medium: Radio
Program: Your Good Neighbour
Broadcast Date: Jan. 1, 1953
Guest(s):
Host: Kate Aitken
Duration: 3:08
Photo: CBC Still Photo Collection, Toronto

Last updated: January 8, 2014

Page consulted on January 8, 2014

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