Because of the cake’s excellent shelf life, monks get to work on the Christmas cakes in January and February and bake right through September. By the first week in December, the storeroom will be empty, the cakes on their way to mailboxes across the country and as far away as Germany, Russia and China.
A fruitcake fan himself — in moderation — Mr. Freedman said the cake likely drew inspiration from candied fruits and nuts in Middle Eastern cuisine and could have been “very influential in medieval Europe.”
“The fruitcake would have been an English adaptation,” Mr. Freedman said. “While it’s not absolutely medieval, it’s closer to some kind of 15th or 16th century” cake.
Another relative could be the panforte, an Italian dessert sold in Vienna that’s thick, flat and disc-shaped.
“It’s more like a dense confection of dried fruits and nuts,” he said.
American palates often reject fruitcakes because dried fruits have gone out of style, Mr. Freedman explained.
“It’s ruined here. It’s become a joke because of cheap imitations,” Mr. Freedman said. “It’s also has become a joke because it’s not our taste now. It was more our taste 50 years ago.”
For Nancy Masters, the Inyo County, Calif., library director, fruitcake is something to have fun with, but certainly not serve as the butt of a joke.
Ms. Masters also serves as the president of the Independence Civic Club, which makes her in charge of the small town’s annual Fruitcake Festival.
Independence, Calif., is about eight hours southeast of San Francisco, with a population of 500 to 600 people, and this is the eighth year for the festival, she said.
“We have to find things to do,” Ms. Masters said with a laugh. “It’s just sort of a crazy, chaotic party, and that’s the way we want it.”
The festival got its start after Ms. Masters and several of her friends were joking about a way to celebrate the much maligned food. As luck would have it, the friends were discussing the option while volunteering at an election site, where a reporter overheard the conversation and put it in the paper.
Every year the festival has a different theme. One time it was an Egyptian theme, while last year embraced “Peace, Love, and Fruitcake.” This December, the celebration is “Fiesta de Fruitcake.”View Entire Story
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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