No matter what political firestorms blow over the landscape, at this time of year fruitcake cancels them out. That might not be true but fruitcake has gotten a bad rap over the centuries.
The Romans carried a concoction of barley mash, pomegranate seeds, raisins and pine nuts as they conquered the world. If that doesn’t make you get out a bowl and spoons then how about the Crusaders. It’s hard to find the energy to search for the Holy Grail without stoking up on calories. Yes, fruitcake traveled with the Knights Templar.
What’s the deal with fruitcake? Why doesn’t it have any friends? Why the jokes? Maybe it’s the gummy, gluey stop light candied bits that some bakers insist make it festive. Maybe it’s the weight. A slice of fruitcake has the density of neutronium. It’s a scientific fact.
But that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a covert slice. Confession: every year during December I sneak off to a local tree nursery that brings in a small shipment of Claxton Fruitcakes. I buy many. And I hide them.
I know that if I get stuck in a snowstorm I’ll have the necessary calories to withstand the northeastern cold until I’m rescued. Failing being rescued, fruitcake provides excellent traction. When I lived in Vermont folks used to put a bag of turkey grit or a piece of their house foundation in the trunk to provide grip on icy roads. I used fruitcake.
Political candidates whine that they get kicked around but they could learn something from fruitcake. Fruitcake has been publicly humiliated for centuries. I don’t know of any politico that’s gotten slung out of a catapult by a guy dressed as a Viking, although I do know a few who should be. Leftover fruitcake gets slammed against a target every year in early January in a place called Manitou Falls, CO. All in the name of fun.
It’s time to reevaluate our relationship with fruitcake. If you’re calorically challenged and fear December’s temptations, then fruitcake for breakfast it is. One slice of fruitcake and you can skip that mid-morning snack and maybe lunch. Fruitcake is a powerhouse of “good” things: nuts, raisins, eggs plus butter, sugar and flour. Three out of six isn’t bad.
When I was a kid my mother taught me that anything that arrived in a round tin and reeked of booze should be left for the grownups. My dad was under orders to lock the car doors at night. Mom insisted that the same people who left bags of zucchini in your car when you weren’t looking were not above dropping off a spare fruitcake or two after dark. This anti-fruitcake sentiment may have fueled my desire to eat all the fruitcake.
A question that gets kicked around every year is how long these things last before they go “bad.” There are a few people who might say they’re never “good” but we’ll forget about them. The truth is that fruitcake never goes bad. There’s a story that Howard Carter found a fruitcake perfect for eating when he opened King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. In fact, as the story goes, it was served at a festive lunch celebrating the tomb opening. I might have lied a little here but let’s be honest: if you soak anything in enough booze it will never spoil.
It’s nearly Christmas. There’s still time to make a memory. I’d like to see fruitcake take its rightful place alongside cookies and other seasonal sweet delights. You can help with this. Surprise your guests. Listen to the “oohs” and cheers as you wheel out the fruitcake in the shape of your choice, the centerpiece of your dessert buffet. It’s a bold choice and the right choice. Fruitcake. This Christmas.