Friday, December 22, 2006

Flying Sauc...Fruitcakes

I love fruitcake and I love Christmas pudding so you can imagine my shock when I first moved to the States and discovered just how much it's detested and make fun of when Christmas rolls around. Americans simply cannot understand how the Brits and Irish can tuck down pounds and pounds of mince pies and heavy fruit cake--it's just so hideous to conceive and they'd far rather have a nice warm apple or pumpkin pie.

At first I was bewildered, though I will admit some of the cakes masquerading as fruitcake in stores here is indeed highly suspect, if not downright criminal. I picked one up a few years ago and could not determine what exactly was holding the imposter together other than its plastic wrapping--it seemed to be all bright red and green cherries, assorted colorless fruit peel, a few bloated raisins and pecans. I mean, who puts pecans in a traditional fruitcake? I purchased it to complete my forensics at home and even I, supreme fruitcake lover, would not dare eat it because it was uncooked flour goo that turned out to be the binding agent.

There is nothing in existence to beat a wellmade fruitcake in my opinion. A friend travels to London frequently and makes a point of bringing me back a decently sized one if he's there near Christmastime, sneaking it past customs who might be inclined to think its some sort of missile because it's so dense with fruit....and rum and other desirable alcohols. My sister Deirdre bakes her delicious fruitcakes during the summer (she's been doing them ever since she learned how in domestic science class at school) and all throughout the fall she seasons them with brandy. If she knows I'll be home that year, she bakes one for me so I can sneak it past the watchful customs people. This year, I was over in Ireland and also brought back a Marks and Spencer Christmas pudding that my sister Siobhan had in her back cupboard, as well as some rhubarb jam my Mom bought and had blessed at a monastary. (Only kidding about the blessed bit, but I knew I'd get it home safely considering its point of origin.) We had the pud about a month ago and it was moist and pleasingly chewy--though I wished I'd had brandy butter and had to settle for vanilla ice-cream with real vanilla extract.

On the telly the other night, I saw a segment about an American family that have been playing a game of pass the same tinned fruitcake between them for the last fifteen years. That's what I call true re-gifting. One of the sons decided to end the game when it arrived at his house this year. He called the family together, opened the tin, and cut himself a slice.

"How is it?" his mother asked. She'd been the one who first bought it as a gift.
He chewed for a few minutes without replying, then swallowed. "A bit rubbery. I'm not going to finish it. I hate fruitcake anyway."

One town, Manitou Springs in Colorado, even has an annual fruitcake toss. This year will be their twelth year holding the event and it's taken very seriously. There's even rules and some competitors build very complex launchers, including trebuchets.

Here are some of their rules:

1. Participants should bring their own fruitcakes. Fruitcakes must contain glaced fruits, nuts and flour. They cannot contain anything inedible. Fruitcakes will not be “taste tested”. Fruitcakes must be visible to the inspectors, no duct tape, foil, etc. All Fruitcakes will be examined by the “Fruitcake Toss Tech Inspectors.”

2. A limited number of fruitcakes will be available to rent for $1.00 if you were not fortunate enough to receive one of your own or if you were unable to find the time or recipe to bake one.


4. For the Fruitcake Launch the device used to launch the fruitcake must not be powered by fuel (ie: no motors, engines, gasoline, diesel, etc.) The maximum length of the hurling device will be 10 feet. Safety is the most important issue. Any device deemed not to be safe by the organizing committee will not be allowed to compete.

Prizes awarded for: Most Beautiful Fruitcake, Ugliest Fruitcake, Most Creative Use of Fruit Cake, Fruitcake that traveled the greatest distance to the event (proof provided by post marks on package).

With such current disrespect for the lowly fruitcake, what chance does it truly have of being accepted as an equal in these United States? I think that's a viable question to occupy the time of the next Congress. If the President pardons two turkeys annually, why can't they establish a Committee of the Fruitcake and establish some rules....and respect?

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