Saturday, December 08, 2007

I know fruitcake. You, sir, are no fruitcake

One of the best things about Christmas is fruitcake. And when I say that, I'm speaking English, not American. I have come to understand translation is required.

Fruitcake in England is a true celebration cake, served at weddings as well as during the holidays. It's rich, dark, buttery, moist, loaded with raisins and currants and sultanas.

(And more: my grandmother always made her cake at the end of October and spent the intervening weeks feeding it brandy until it was an aromatic fire hazard.)

In contrast, fruitcake in America is a block of concrete topped with neon fruitlike food substances.

People laugh at fruitcake, because that's the only practical use it has.

I must admit, at first I thought this was an exaggerated reaction to a couple of bad experiences, inflated for comedic purposes. So I bought a fruitcake from WholeFoods to find out for myself. And then I realized that we laugh because we don't want to cry.

The black things are dried prunes. Oh yeah. Enjoy, wontcha?

I mean, it wasn't bad. It was a little dry, and the cake itself was bland and underseasoned. The main problem was that it was hopelessly overstuffed with candied fruit, and every mouthful held big, chewy chunks of the stuff, the flavors indistinguishable from each other. It would be kind to say it was ... an unsubtle experience.

Which leads to the question: why does it appear every year? Who is buying this stuff in great enough quantities that bakeries across the country think it profitable to produce?

Answers below, please.

Meanwhile, I stand by my conviction that real fruitcake is a wonderful thing. One day I'll show you. I'll show you all.

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