It’s time to make a fruitcake cool again. I’m not talking about rehabilitating some nutty friend, but doing for fruitcake what we did for knitting. 15 years ago we wouldn’t admit to anyone that we enjoyed the womanly arts, but now every hip chick I know owns a set of knitting needles.
Just after the holidays I was listening to Evan Kleiman’s Good Food on KCRW. Evan was singing the wonders of this little bite of history, talking to fruitcake maker Robert Lambert, and my daughter said, “What’s fruitcake?” Wow! The fruitcake has fallen so low that kids don’t even know what it is!
I myself hadn’t thought about the fruitcake in many years. I remembered how my mom made fruitcake every Christmas when I was growing up. But by then we were feeling pretty groovy as a society about all our fancy new foods like Velveeta and Twinkies, and the fruitcake, touted since the Middle Ages, just couldn’t hold its own. It was the butt of jokes and a big hit at the office white elephant gift exchange. So even though I secretly really liked it — what’s not to like, it’s loaded with alcohol? — my siblings and I dissed the fruitcake enough that my mom stopped making it.
Why did the fruitcake fall from grace? Nobody makes fun of pancakes or roast goose or… hello, coffee! We’ve been imbibing those since humans were barely upright. Maybe it’s because big agribusiness started feeding us all that overprocessed junk, and fruitcake’s already-processed ingredients like dried fruits and maraschino cherries became just too grossly unfood-like. But good food really is on our national radar again, so seeking out artisanal dried fruits and other yummies could be really fun.
Be cool, make a fruitcake! Robert Lambert says a really good fruitcake can ferment for two or three years (Mmmm, I can practically taste its brandified deliciousness!). I’m going to start right now and ferment my fruitcake until next Christmas. I’m looking for the right recipe, so if you have one send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Evan Kleiman, fruitcake, Good Food, KCRW, Robert Lambert