We interrupt the chronicling of the strange events up in West Burville, VT, to chortle over that most luscious of holiday treats (c’mon, you know what’s coming), the fruit-filled, teeth vibrating, gummy mass-‘o-love called the Fruitcake. There. It had to be said. After all the years of living a lie, I may be the only one who will admit it, but I love fruitcake. In fact, I wait for this time of year for no good reason other than to eat fruitcake. I keep one in the car to snack on as I hit the Northway after work. Why, oh why, is it not available year round?
Last night I was at the local nursery viewing the denuded remains of the few scraggy trees left when I stopped by the counter. “Why-in-gods-name-are-you-charging-$50-for-a-damn-Christmas tree stand?”, I whined. But I didn’t wait for an answer. It didn’t matter. My rabbit-like peripheral vision had spotted a rack of rich Claxton Fruitcake by the cash register. Tell me not of Texas Fruitcake, or Grandma Ida’s Tropical Fancy, when my love lies below the Mason-Dixon line at the Georgia headquarters of the small-ish Claxton Bakery. I’m getting dizzy just thinking of it. I bought the lot.
Consider this description from their website:
“Sun-ripened California Raisins, delicious pineapple,
crunchy Georgia pecans, plump juicy cherries,
freshly shelled walnuts and almonds,
tangy lemon and orange peel
blended into a rich
pound cake batter…
baked to a golden
Be still, oh my heart!
There are one too many fruitcake jokes. To those who consider pitching their fruitcakes in the back of an unlocked vehicle, or throwing them in the trunk in case you slide off the road and need some traction appropriate seasonal behavior, I say, “ARRET! STOP!” Consider this: the fruitcake was carried along by Roman soldiers as they conquered the known world. The Crusaders ate it and we know what they did. Tough guys one and all. Fruitcake is not for sissies.
The joyful peasants of 17th century England made a nut cake and ate it the following year to celebrate the harvest. And the custom of soaking the cake in booze for a year was born. Hail to thee, Merry Olde England!
By the 18th century the sinfully rich, decadent, voluptuous, full-bodied fruitcake was banned by culinary prudes throughout Europe, who were freaked out by its saucy come hither sweetness. By the end of that century laws had been passed to restrict its sale. Heavens. Such a to do.
Enter Queen Victoria, long did she reign. And might the secret to her success be partly hidden in the slices of fruitcake she consumed with high tea? In fact, and New York State politicians take note: “Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste.” Hail to the Queen! Perhaps we should encourage fruitcake dispensers in the lobby of the Assembly and the Senate?
So where did it all go so horribly wrong? Don’t get me going. First it was using too much flour and too little liquid. Then someone forgot they were making a cake and not cinder blocks. Next it was the use of mass-produced neon-colored bits of candied fruit that might well have been made from recycled wax fruit. Proportion, people. Moderation. 50% fruit and nuts and 50% batter.
The final question here is this: where do all the fruitcakes go after Christmas? Have you noticed they all disappear at once? I can tell you where some of them go: Manitou Springs, Colorado. I’m a bit of an expert on small town weirdness so I’ll tell you that the Annual Great Fruitcake Toss is major weirdness.
Or how about this: “Bombs away!” took on a whole new meaning in 2006, when Thom Castonguay blew up fruitcakes in something called a “bomb calorimeter”. Strictly in the interest of advancing our scientific knowledge of exploding fruitcakes.
So here we meet just a few days before Christmas. You have fruitcake lore galore. You’ve been guaranteed that if the Crusaders could take Jerusalem with a belly full of fruitcake, you can handle the Northway on a couple of slices.
It might be time to reconsider those holiday treats. Move over chocolate truffles. It’s time to wheel in The Fruitcake.
Next time we’ll discuss whether or not Santa is violating child labor laws. And where is the North Pole, anyway?