What do they mean? Why do they exist? As we stagger through another holiday season, stuffed with turkey and dressing, yams and cranberry sauce and all the otherwise wonderful culinary delights of the hour, we are once again faced with these mysterious, inscrutable, moist, thick, weird looking brick things that returns time after time, like telemarketers or winter colds.
Here's one clue: Fruitcake originated in ancient Egypt and was considered an essential food for the afterlife. Mummy food, in other words.
Prior to the 1700's, crusaders and hunters carried fruitcake to sustain themselves over long periods of time away from home. So they were like trail mix for knights going to sack Jerusalem.
In the 1700's fruitcake was banned throughout Continental Europe for being "sinful."
According to Harper's Index, 1991, the ratio of the density of the average fruitcake to the density of mahogany is 1:1.
According to Russell Baker in the New York Times, when a research firm polled some 1,000 adults about what they did with fruitcake:
* 38% said they gave it away,
* 28% actually ate it,
* 13% used it as a doorstop,
* 9% scattered it for the birds,
* 4% threw it out,
* and 8% couldn't remember.
If you took all the uneaten fruitcakes in the U.S. every Christmas and laid them end to end, the line would reach all the way to the moon. And no one there would eat them either.
Standard ingredients are red and green candied cherries, dried pineapple, and raisins. Of course, anything can go into these monstrosities and recipes vary.
Claxton, Geo. and Corsicana, Tex. both claim to be the "Fruitcake Capital" of the U.S.
Many blame Johnny Carson who once joked on "The Tonight Show" that there is actually only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep re-gifting it.
Bits of fruitcake were listed among the debris found at the supposed 1947 UFO crash in Roswell, N.M.
To call someone a "fruitcake" is a pejorative knock on the mental condition.
Most American mass-produced fruit cakes are alcohol-free, but traditional recipes are saturated with liqueurs or brandy and covered in powdered sugar, both of which prevent mold. Brandy- or wine-soaked linens can be used to store the fruit cakes, and some people feel that fruit cakes improve with age. A traditional fruitcake is made in the autumn and brandy is added once a week until the 25th of December and, if properly made, is supposedly delicious. Not!
Queen Victoria is said to have waited a year to eat a fruitcake she received for her birthday because she felt it showed restraint, moderation and good taste.
Since 1995, Manitou Springs, Colo., has hosted the Great Fruitcake Toss on the first Saturday of every January. The all-time Great Fruitcake Toss record is 1,420 feet, set in Jan. 2007 by a group of eight Boeing engineers who built the "Omega 380," a mock artillery piece fueled by compressed air pumped by an exercise bike.
In 1913, fruitcake became available for mail order in the USA.
Dec. 27 is National Fruitcake Day and December is National Fruitcake Month
A fruit cake baked in 1878 is kept as an heirloom by a family in Tecumseh, Michigan. In 2003 it was sampled by Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show." Apparently it was pretty nasty.
I have now said all I can on the subject. You have been warned. Enjoy your Christmas eating but don't take any chances. Leave the fruitcake to the experts.