Here’s what I’d like to know. Why does fruitcake get such bad press? I love fruitcake. Anyone who wants to send me a fruitcake of any sort (well, almost any sort) – please do. The more neon the artificially enhanced fruit – the better! Now I happen to know that The Kitchen Witch, a very fine chef, has different ideas. But I think it’s time we discuss this highly politicized holiday issue.
While I realize I probably shouldn’t eat fruitcake, or anything that is heavy enough to be used as a discus, I nonetheless enjoy gastronomically festive foods. Besides, without preservatives, mightn’t the fruit rot or the impressive shelf life be shorter?
And I’m nuts over nuts. Pecans, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts. Add dried and candied fruits, and then liqueur? Mmmm.
Yes, it’s dense. Yes, it’s sweet. Yes, it’s… ponderous. Still, if it’s a tasty fruitcake, eccentric though it may be, I’m hooked.
Here are some fanciful facts about the much maligned fruitcake and a few of the reasons I love it.
- Some sources trace variations of the fruitcake back to the times of the Egyptians, and fruitcake was certainly around in the Middle Ages. Doesn’t that make it historic? A classic, like the little black dress?
- The shelf life of a fruitcake may be two or even three years – and I don’t mean for dead Pharaohs. Think of the re-gifting possibilities. What’s not to love about that?
- American fruitcake recipes can be documented as far back as 1824, according to About.com, with recipes that include some 9 pounds of fruit and nuts.
- The ingredients are as lavish and colorful as a big box of crayons! Fruitcake is a potpourri of sugary, squishy and otherwise crunchy stuff, including raisins, currants, almonds, pineapples, cherries, pecans, alcohol, corn syrup… a health food, no?
- Many fruitcakes are provided by Trappist monks from Oregon to Georgia. Their bakeries (and fruitcake revenues) furnish financing to the monasteries. Hell, I’m feeling more spiritual about my Christmas fruitcake already.
- The record for consumption of this chock-full-of-nuts confection was set in 2001 by Sonya Thomas, who downed 4 lbs and 14 oz in 10 minutes. (UGH.)
- Takeru Kobayashi – record holder for (competitive) consumption of hotdogs and a number of other foods – attempted to better Thomas’ accomplishment in December 2008, and couldn’t do it!
- What other holiday food has its own sporting event? If you receive one of those fruitcakes (the pallid, chalky, neon-lit, or led-weighted variety) – no worries! There is a fruitcake tossing event that’s been around for years – the Annual Manitou Springs Fruitcake Toss!
Fruitcake fun or fruitcake fail?
Personally, I’ve had fruitcake from Harry and David (delicious), and my grandmother’s was divine (possibly provided by Trappist monks). Am I nuttier than a fruitcake for admitting that? Perhaps. But I stand by my convictions. I love fruitcake, though I’m even fonder of the lighter, breadier German cousin, the Christmas stollen.
Now, to quote The Kitchen Witch, whose recipes I admire as much as her prose:
“The only redeeming thing about fruitcake is that it is steeped in hard liquor.”
From that remark, I gather that TKW is on the fruitcake sucks side of this debate. So, any felicitous fruitcakes on your holiday table, or are you heading to Colorado to find your “weight class” and toss your cake into the ring?