The Fruitcake, Revisited


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MUSIC – “Fruitcake” from Joy to the World It’s Christmas by Brian Kinder. Released: 2006.

Note: This post is a repeat of one I published on December 10th, 2013, which was written by my spouse Stan Rhine, who loves fruitcake!

fruitcake 4

Potato chips and French fries are both held in high esteem by the American eating public – which is the majority of Americans. Nutritionists, however, decry their empty calories, their fat-saturated preparation and salt-laden surfaces. Why is that anything so obviously bad for us is so desirable, so delectable, so irresistible? For the same reason that foods known to be of high nutritional value are shunned like the plague? Healthy foods like broccoli, kale and kumquats are more likely to be tossed down the garbage disposal than someone’s gullet.

However, the very nadir of the desirable food ladder (the Ralph Nader of foods) is the fruitcake. Even the name has taken on a derogatory hue. The statement “Octavius Beauregard Smith is a fruitcake” is not one calculated to bring delight to either Mr. Smith or his partisans. Especially if true.

fruitcake 3

This is quite illogical, as the fruitcake has a very strong association with the holidays, that most-anticipated season of peace and goodwill, a time when we bestow cards, greetings and gifts upon relatives, acquaintances and associates, as well as on people we like. Among the colorful, heavy, beribboned boxes beneath the tree is sure to be a fruitcake, the true symbol of the season.

Yet, the innocent fruitcake has become the butt of jokes (the Twinkie of holiday foods). There are fruitcakes alleged to have been in the family for generations, being cycled through the members anew each time the tree is put up. Fruitcakes have also been pressed into a wide variety of roles differing greatly from their customary one of comestible. For instance, used as a doorstop, a weapon of self-defense, building blocks for a biodegradable house, and most inglorious of all, ammunition for a trebuchet competition in Colorado.

Composed of the most innocent but nutritious elements, flour (even some exotic flours), butter, eggs, minor miscellaneous spices, raisins, nuts and great gobs of fruit*, and sometimes anointed with rum, fruitcakes are unquestionably not only nourishing for the body, but for the psyche as well. A visual treat whether whole, sliced and artistically arranged on a plate, or viewed at extremely close range on the way into your mouth.

           *Footnote: In order for the fruitcake to achieve its legendary longevity, it is necessary that the fruit undergo some minor processing before incorporation into the delectable dessert. This processing amplifies the fruits’ natural color, adding just a touch of sweetness to their taste. This creates a loaf that is not only solid to the touch, but solidly satisfying, a visually appealing fusion of brilliant reds, yellows and greens in hues unknown in nature, vying for attention and top billing, “I like the cherries the best!”

Yet, for all of its undeniable eye-appeal, the incorporation of the fruitcake into the holiday season has come to be viewed with negativity. It was as if people actually did not like fruitcakes, that they did not hold back, biding their time, waiting to strike the moment the after-Christmas sales are posted at Wal-Mart, stocking up on a supply of fruitcakes sufficient to bridge the interminable famine season until next year.

Pity the poor, maligned fruitcake, nutritious, delicious harbinger of the twilight of the year.

fruitcake 1

Note: This piece was written by my husband, Stan, who is anxiously awaiting his little block of fruitcake on Christmas morning

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About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 6,235. What next? More shelves?
This entry was posted in baking, cakes, Comfort Food, Cooking, Cooking and Social History, Eating, Food Trends, Uncategorized, Vintage Cookbooks and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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