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In praise of fruitcake

I come here to defend the indefensible holiday edible known as fruitcake, yes that seemingly abominable Roman creation that magically appears during holiday parties.

Chock full of nuts, raisins and other fruits, it’s become the butt of jokes for years, much like the inevitable Chex Mix and the jelly-of-the-month certificate like the one Clark Griswold received in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Marc Antony may have been speaking of fruitcake when making his famous speech in the Shakespeare play, Julius Caesar.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your taste buds, I come to bury fruitcake, not to praise it,” he may have thought.

Appropriately enough, one of the earliest recipes for fruitcake was Roman listing pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins that were mixed into barley mash.

In the middle ages, honey, spices and preserved fruits were added.

Believe it or not, fruitcake is “enjoyed” internationally, in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, India, New Zealand, Portugal, the Caribbean and the United Kingdom.

Here at home, mail-order fruitcakes began in 1913, but the incessant ridiculing of the dessert has been ongoing since then, becoming the topic of late-night talk show jabs.

One community, Manitou Springs Colorado, has hosted the Great Fruitcake Toss since 1995, drawing the interest of eight Boeing engineers who built a mock artillery piece fueled by compressed air pumped by an exercise bike, which “tossed” a fruitcake 1,420 feet.

Noting cultural trends, perhaps fruitcake can again become the “apple” of holiday eyes, and not simply because of the rum sometimes added for that little extra kick.

At any rate, I feel sorry for something so maligned but in some cases so flavorful, at least in my opinion.

Absence sometimes makes the heart grow fonder, and the fruitcake I sampled Christmas Eve at a family gathering tasted fine to me.

This little aside gives me ideas for future columns. 

Can you imagine, “In praise of prunes?”