This won’t be long. Christmas is two days away and there is way too much left to do this year. My grandma once remarked that she had reached the age where Christmas came twice a year and I think I may be approaching that stage. But Christmas (like Friday mornings with this blog) comes whether we are ready or not.
Christmas has become so polarized. But then so is everything else nowadays. It seems that those who celebrate Christmas in its more traditional sense are at odds with those who do not. Wait – you thought I was talking about the tension between a religious and a secular Christmas? Oh no. I’m talking about whether your Christmas does or does not include fruitcake.
At my house, we are fruitcake people. Some of us, at least. OK, the ones over 50. I know that Christmas is almost here because the fruitcake and egg nog got served up for the first time of the season earlier this week. I know lots of folks who are not into either, but I enjoy them both.
Fruitcake is like chili – no two people make it the same way, although most everyone agrees on the ingredient list. Some are heavy on booze but I prefer my confections without. Perhaps this has something to do with the unfortunate Evening O’ Bourbon from early in my freshman year of college. As an aside, I can report that bourbon and I have gotten over our long estrangement, but I cannot say that we are great friends.
There are other recipes that seem to be too much cake and not enough fruit. It seems to me that the cake part should exist only as the cement that binds the fruits and nuts together. If a fruitcake is not heavy enough to hold open a heavy door on a windy day, well it’s just not a proper fruitcake.
I first developed a taste for the stuff the year my Boy Scout troop sold fruitcakes door to door as a fundraiser. This was about 1970, a time when the general public seemed more inclined to eat this seasonal treat. I cannot imagine a worse fundraiser today. It would probably be easier to sell pet raccoons.
As part of my sales kit I received a batch of free samples of Benson’s Old Home Fruitcake. (From Athens, GA – went the rest of my sales pitch.) After offering as many samples as I could (my sales results were not bad) I ate the rest, in one of those many signs of maturation that start happening in twelve year old boys. Well, maybe there are not exactly many signs of maturation in a twelve year old boy, but we take them where we can find them. In any event, I became a fan of fruitcake that year.
For quite a number of years my local warehouse club stocked Claxton’s fruitcakes. (Also from Georgia. Perhaps those Georgians have figured out the secret to good fruitcake.) These are quite nice, being sufficiently dense and with a good flavor. If you like that sort of thing, at least. Then the year before last they were . . . not there. I will admit to a terrible case of fruitcake withdrawal. Not so terrible that I went on a Great Fruitcake Search or anything, but my holiday fruitcake was missed.
This might have been the same year that eggnog suddenly seemed so hard to get. Every time I went to the dairy case of any of our usual stores, it was gone. I eventually got some, but it was more of a chore than it should have been. Life can be so hard!
On a recent trip out of town I found some of my old favorite Klaxton fruitcake for sale and brought one home, where it has been patiently awaiting the proper time. Which came a couple of nights ago. Which was also the evening I brought home a half gallon of real, full-fat egg nog.
Fruitcake has gotten a bad rap in the last decade or two. There are those who joke that there have only been about a thousand of them ever made and that they just keep getting re-gifted to others. Which would make those people fruitcakeists – c’mon folks, are we not enlightened enough to avoid making jokes at the expense of innocent fruitcakes? Fruitcakes are desserts too, you know.
I could suggest that the anti-fruitcake camp simply lacks the advanced and educated taste buds of we fruitcakers or that they don’t understand a true multicultural dessert when they see one. After all, ancestors to modern fruitcakes are said to derive from Roman times. (I said ancestors, not the actual fruitcakes that you may get from your Aunt Betty today. They really do bake fresh ones every year.) But that would just bring me down to the level of the haters, something which I simply refuse to do.
Now that I have planted my flag as a Friend of the Fruitcake, my work is done. At least this work. Because there is an ungodly amount of other work that is now screaming at me about how quickly December 25th is coming. So I had better leave you and get to it. But know that I will certainly find time for a fruitcake break here and there.
May all of you have a peaceful and blesses Christmas. Whether you celebrate the holiday with fruitcake or not.