My previous post got me thinking more about fruitcake. You just don’t hear much about fruitcake anymore- as a Christmas tradition it’s been stashed in the attic with the Christmas tree candle holders and the foil garland Gramma made during the depression.
But I believe it’s been the victim of bad press and it’s time to reevaluate it.
I used to make fruitcake. Everyone I know got one. Mine was made from dried fruits- raisons, currants, apricots, figs, pineapple- no colored candied fruits, no little green nasty bits and no artificially bright cherries. Mine had lots of nuts: pecans, almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts and a dark rich batter with coffee and whiskey in it. I soaked it in Southern Comfort. I aged it. The longer it aged the better it tasted. I began making it 2 months in advance instead of 1. One year I even made it in the summer.
It was so good my assistant once broke into my desk at work looking for a piece. Friends would hide it from their family members and eat it in secret.
The thing is- it was still fruitcake, the butt of all Christmas jokes, fruitcake. I got tired of the jokes. I got tired of fruitcake curing in every nook and cranny of my house. I began to suspect that people confused it with the truly awful kind from the grocery store and really just tossed it out or passed it around like a particularly ugly heirloom that no one can stand.
Aunt Maribeth, Uncle Pat, if you are reading this- I really don’t know what happened to the obnoxious rare Japanese vase with the samurai warrior on it, talk to Natalie.
I stopped making fruitcake.
Now no one much gives fruitcake anymore- the jokes and so forth- have made it a social faux pas. No, now we get little scented soaps in little baskets with miniature loofahs, lavender sachets with ribbon to pretty to throw away but not long enough to recycle, and tiny jars of jam with an assortment of dry biscuits from some place in Europe. They get put into a drawer or a closet and stay there until someone goes on a cleaning binge. Come on, admit it, no one really uses that stuff. One would think this should be the subject of ridicule but you don’t see a lot of SNL skits about sachets now do you?
What you do run across is jokes about handmade Christmas gifts, even gasp… knitting. Someone, somewhere who knits (possibly even me, I’ll admit it) will always give someone you know some awful too big, too small, too bright, too dull, too not the recipient something. Bright orange and fushia leg warmers for Gramps and a red, green, and yellow intarsia sweater with Rudolph on it for your surly teenage daughter? Ring a bell?
A few more jokes and knitting will be the new fruitcake.
Then those knitted gifts that are well chosen and beautifully knitted with love will be devalued by those who can’t see the lace shawl for the oversized jingle bell sweater.
So, knit what you want- gifts and otherwise- because you love it and may the yarn fall where it may but remember that it will be harder to make fun of knitting if there’s fruitcake to kick around.