What would the Christmas season be like without fruitcake? It’s difficult to make fun of a carpenter, a virgin mother, and the birth of a Savior. Fruitcake, on the other hand, is open game for anyone with the slightest sense of humor.
I just realized something; through twelve days of Christmas, my true love never gave me a single fruitcake! Perhaps no one gave her one, so there was nothing to re-gift.
See what I mean? Anyone can make a joke about a fruitcake. In fact, jokes about fruitcakes have been around for so long that attaching the term ‘fruitcake’ to a person makes it clear to all that the person is ‘different’ and will probably cause laughter.
As a person who truly loves fruitcake, I think these jokes are grossly unfair.
According to the What’s Cooking America website, the term ‘fruitcake’ can be traced back to the Middle Ages. However, a recipe has been found among relics from the ancient Roman empire.
The oldest recipes included pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins mixed into a barley mash. (Come to think of it, beer begins its life as a barley mash! I knew there was a good reason for me to love fruitcake.)
Recipes dating from the Middle Ages included honey, spices, and preserved fruits. The key point is that the Crusaders and hunters reportedly carried fruitcakes with them on their journeys. They were not taking them as peace offerings; the fruitcakes were the early versions of K-Rations or MREs.
Over the centuries, various ingredients have been added and subtracted. Today’s fruitcakes usually contain a liberal amount of candied fruit and nuts.
I can remember my mother trying her hand at fruitcake once. She may have baked fruitcakes more often before I was born, but I only recall the one attempt. Although my mom was an excellent cook, her fruitcake had too much cake and not enough fruit.
To me, a fruitcake should be similar to a chocolate chip cookie – just enough dough to make the good stuff stay together.
The other strike against mom’s fruitcake was her teetotaling lifestyle. I doubt if a single drop of alcohol ever passed across her lips. While not all fruitcake needs to be kicked up a notch or two, a little rum or bourbon never hurts.
Years ago – while I was still living in Pittsburgh – the Beechview Lions Club sold Benson’s fruitcakes to raise money for various projects. I have never considered myself to be much of a salesman, and wasn’t too keen on the idea. However, I gave it a try by taking a fruitcake to the office and slicing it up for free samples.
After all the jokes were made, I sold several cases… and I didn’t even do anything to ‘liven’ up the taste. Benson’s is still my favorite, but I can never find their product in the grocery store. Perhaps a reader can point me in the right direction.
The other commercial fruitcake I’ve come to enjoy is made by the Claxton bakery in Claxton, Georgia. By the way, Benson’s fruitcakes are made in Bogart, Georgia. It appears Georgia has a corner on the market. Perhaps it’s our pecans that make the difference.
Now that I’ve got my mouth watering for this seasonal treat, I’m going to have to go out and find a fruitcake or two. While I’m out, I’ll have to stop by a different kind of store so I can kick the cakes up a notch or two.
In case you’re wondering… the picture of Winnie the Pooh has nothing to do with fruitcakes. I just thought it added a little color to the post.
Did you know that Winnie the Pooh stories are based on a real bear?