Tag Archives: Fruitcake

The Christmas Spirits

I found myself pawing through the cookbook section of the downtown Barnes and Noble. I had been looking for recipes for the Holiday season and what better way to become inspired than to see what Martha, Craig and others have done previously.

As I perused through a fourth book of Holiday recipes, a small voice started speaking to me.

“There’s something wrong here. Look closer at the recipes.”

I shook my head and blinked. I refocused my eyes and started reading the recipes with more intensity.

Wassail, Egg Nog, Plum Pudding, Fruitcake; all of these recipes flew by my eyes. Something was indeed wrong. But what?

I looked at the ingredient lists, and the reality became clear — All of the recipes that had traditionally contained some measure of brandy, rum or ale now sat before me, neutered. Even a recipe for glühwein, which has the German word for wine in its name, told us to recreate the recipe with mulled tea sans wine.

How did this happen? Have some of us become so frightened of alcohol that we’ve removed it as an option in cooking? Or is it simple ignorance of how these recipes originated?

I can respect the fact that some people don’t like the taste of alcohol. But for me, the idea of egg nog without rum is as silly as tofurkey — A cheap recreation of a dish for someone who doesn’t like what the traditional recipe represents.

Me? I like spirits. I believe them to be some of the most complicated tastes in the world. They add a uniqueness to many recipes that are impossible to recreate. To remove them from a recipe is akin to removing garlic or curry from a recipe.

I don’t think there’s a concerted effort here, but I do find the lack of Christmas recipes without spirits disheartening. Trust me when I say that those of you drinking wassail made only from apple juice, or having a fruitcake that hasn’t been drowned in brandy are missing out on something exquisite.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Christmas recipes, spirits


Gah!! Fruitcake!!! Run for your life!!


It was pointed out to me in the comments that there are those who actually like …ahem…fruitcake.

To these people I can only offer a quizical glance, a stare of disbelief, and a shake of the head. Could I be wrong? Perhaps I’ve been given bad fruitcakes all of my life, with the hard cherries (sometime colored a lime green) and the heavy weight of the cake.

Is it because a monkey didn’t make it for me?

is it because I’ve never had it made by Monks?

Is it because I’ve never had it coated with Marzipan?

I’m not sure, but I now get the sense that I’m missing out on something. So I do what I always do…I research.

Over at hungrymonster, they state that fruitcakes were made to celebrate the nut harvests. The write:

After the harvest was complete, they mixed a whole bunch of nuts from the harvest together and made a fruitcake that they SAVED until the harvest the NEXT year. That next year, they chowed down on the old fruitcake, hoping it would bring them another successful harvest.

Yup, they would hold on to the fruitcake for ONE ENTIRE YEAR, before eating it. How appetizing!

I’m sure that many people found, in the year between making an eating, that the cake would evolve into a wonderous cure for social diseases, but be rather unappetizing to look at. So, in order to preserve the cake, they doused it in the food sterlizer of choice…brandy. I’m all for brandy. In fact, I am bold enough to say that if you want to send me a fruitcake, you can cut out the middleman and simply send me a bottle of brandy. I’m gracious like that.

But how did it get associated with Christmas? For that, we have the Victorians to thank, who often handed out slices of the cake to the poor women who sang Christmas carols in the street during the late 1700′s. I’m not sure if by “poor women” they mean those lacking in wealth, or they were “poor” because some thoughtless sod gave them a slice of fruitcake, as in “Poor woman, they just gave her a piece of year old nut bread doused in honey and brandy”.

Whatever the history, it’s safe to say that I have yet to have a good fruitcake. But if someone is willing to send me one to try, I’ll be a good sport and taste test the bad boys.

Even if it is made by a monkey.