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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Inevitable Holiday Part 4: A slice of heaven? (and the results are in!!!)

We’ve all heard the one about the poor fruitcake who, while he had plenty of dates for the Christmas party, nobody loved him. He was just a little too nutty.
Seems like fruitcakes have been getting a bad rap for ages. Literally.
A bit of research shows us that the whole idea of preserving fruit with sugar and then baking it into a so-called “cake” dates back to ancient Eygpt and the Roman Empire. Some historians say that a form of fruitcake was considered an essential food for the afterlife (and many today may agree!) A bit later in history, the Crusaders were said to pack the sturdy little cakes in their saddle bags on their long and arduous journeys. Apparently there weren’t many other foods that could withstand that kind of travel, and beef jerky and Twinkies hadn’t been invented yet.
Keep moving on in the history of this tasty holiday delight, and arrive in Victorian England, where those people just loved their fruitcake. They loved it so much that they started a custom that said if an unmarried wedding guest puts a slice of fruitcake under their pillow at night, he or she will dream of the person they will marry.
So why do we all eat it at Christmas? That remains a bit of a mystery, but it is thought that the carolers of old England were rewarded with a slice. Makes me wonder just how good their singing was…
This rich –and rather dense—history of a simple concoction of candied fruits and nuts brings us to our own country of America, a virtual melting pot of culture and of fruitcake recipes.
All of which I admit I have never really tried.
Sure, I’ve attempted to eat a piece of fruitcake before, and I can honestly say that I never met a fruitcake I liked, and that in Harper’s Index (1991) they are very true in saying that the ratio of the density of the average fruitcake to the density of mahogany is 1:1.
But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on this holiday tradition that has been around for thousands of years. Something somewhere makes me think that there has to be something good about these bricks, er, cakes. C’mon, they are everywhere this time of year. At least one will pass under the turned-up nose of just about everyone between now and January 1.
Therefore, this year as part of Inevitable Holiday, I am going to attempt to introduce my family to the inevitable fruitcake so that we may celebrate in this historical delicacy. But I have lofty goals and want it to actually be enjoyable to eat. I want to teach my children that there is a good side to fruitcake before they reach the age where people make their culinary decisions for them.
So I’m trying something a little different—a fruitcake cookie. A tasty-looking recipe with all of the fruitiness and nuttiness of fruitcake without the two pound loaf of lump that, according to the New York Times, 13% of people use as a doorstop.
My fingers are crossed that these confections that I’ve been building up in my mind actually live up to the hype, and that Santa and I don’t end up eating two dozen a piece, just to clear out room in the cookie jar.
I figure if we’re going to be stuck with this afterlife-appropriate, Crusade-withstanding, marriage-predicting baked good, we might as well make it somewhat delicious. I am just so very determined to make this inevitable tradition something special for my family. Maybe I’m crazy…or maybe just nuttier than a, well, you know.

Wanna know how they turned out? My husband said, and I quote, "what's wrong with chocolate chip? Can't you just ever make a normal cookie?" My neighbor said, "well, they're not bad, but I wouldn't go back for seconds."
All this makes me happy because I ate half of the batch by myself. I love them. Love them love them love them. Especially good with a hot cup of tea.
So for any of you just dying to know the recipe, email me (karriemcallister@aol.com) and I'd be happy to share it...as long as you are willing to share some cookies with me! :)


Anonymous said...

From my experience, anything produced from my own hands is always better to me than it is to everyone else. ENJOY YOUR FRUITCAKE COOKIES, Karrie!

I'm sorry that we won't be able to see you guys this year. Have a wonderful Christmas!!

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