Around the holidays, I try to remember the less fortunate. I get toys for the angel tree at work. I put money in the Salvation Army kettles at the Piggly Wiggly. I buy a fruitcake.
You know, that multi-colored, dusty brick sitting alone and and ignored? (I don’t think a new fruitcake has been made since 1978; they just get passed from family to family, year after year.) Maybe it’s Christmas, but I tend to get sentimental at this time of year, and I’ve always felt a bit sorry for fruitcake. Let’s face it: fruitcake has to be the most maligned and ridiculed food in the Western world.
A few years ago—I don’t remember when or where—I had a bite of fruitcake and realized that I actually liked it. So now, I’ve taken up the cause, and I buy one every Christmas. And just like the ones my mom bought, mine go mostly uneaten. One of my boys likes it, and other one hates it. Maybe liking fruitcake is the result of a recessive gene.
Fruitcake shouldn’t be feared. It is nothing more than cake with dried fruit and nuts. So based on that definition, fruitcake has been around a long time. The Romans ate a type of fruitcake that consisted of pomegranate seeds in a barley mash. From there, it spread to the rest of Europe and then on to Aisle 4 at your local supermarket.
It is also worth noting that what we as Americans consider fruitcake is much different than the fruitcake from other parts of the globe. The Italian panettone and German stollen are technically fruitcakes, but much more popular and tastier than the US incarnation —kinda like comparing Olive Oyl to Raquel Welch and Marlene Dietrich. I particularly like what they do with fruitcake in the Bahamas. Not only is the cake itself drenched in rum, but so are the ingredients.
And while I don’t eat fruitcake very often, when I do it’s Claxton. This iconic fruitcake has been made in Claxton, Georgia, for a hundred years. But just because Claxton has been around a long time, doesn’t mean it's not in step with the times. Claxton now makes something called ClaxSnax, which according to the company’s website is “Claxton Fruit Cake by the slice, individually wrapped for freshness.” What’s next ? One hundred calorie “ClaxSnax” packs? (For the record, that would be a piece of fruitcake the size of a quarter—have you read the calorie count on the back of the box?!)
I’ve been told that fruitcake is not that hard to make and can actually be made quite well. The jury is still out on that one and besides, the holidays are nearly done and I’m done with cooking, so maybe next year. Until then, grab a fruitcake from your local grocery store at half-off and scarf down the last few fatty calories before the new year when we all will be forced to hit the gym!