|If I wouldn't eat it plain, I wouldn't put it in my fruitcake|
When I was a kid, my father's secretary used to give our family a homemade fruitcake every Christmas. It was generally rich, heavy, and delicious. As a young married, I made a dark fruitcake pretty regularly, buying mountains of dried dates, raisins, figs, currants, and other similar foods. I would start making it the weekend after Thanksgiving and then let it age until Christmas. But a few years later, I started hearing rumors that fruitcake was not beloved by all; in fact, some people really disliked them. A Boston Globe columnist wrote a funny anti-fruitcake column every year. Stad-up comics began to tell cruel jokes about fruitcakes. Heck, even Edward Gorey got into the act.
I began to have doubts as to whether my gift was truly appreciated. Good fruitcakes are a tremendous amount of work, and they are also expensive to make. The rum alone costs more than $20. But you can't make a good fruitcake with cheap rum. And if you start with real dried apricots, Medjool dates, black mission figs, and similar other fruits, the cost mounts. (None of that weird, fluorescent glaceed peel goes into my fruitcake!) So I didn't want to spend the time, effort, and money if no one wanted the result.
But I love good fruitcake, and for years had a small cadre of other diehard fruitcake aficionados. I'd bake a few just for us. The year I got sick and had multiple surgeries and treatments, I stopped making fruitcakes, and then I got out of the habit. This year, however, my brother wondered if I'd be making them again, and I thought, "Yes!" He will get one, since he also loves them.
So I've started. Last night I chopped up all the fruit and nuts and threw them into a large bowl to soak up rum. In a week, I'll put the batter together and actually bake them. I will hoard my fruitcake, sharing it only with people who truly adore and appreciate this toothsome treat. When I've polished mine off, that's it for the year.
So don't make fun of fruitcake within my hearing; I take this food seriously.