By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
They've been around since Roman times--perhaps the same fruitcake--when Russell Crowe and his ilk feasted on a mix of pomegranate, pine nuts, and raisins mixed into a barley-mash batter. No wonder the ancients developed vomitoriums. The English perfected fruitcakes in the Middle Ages and later in their upper classes--at least according to Somerset Maugham. Americans--well, 13 percent of Americans in a 1992 poll--prefer to use fruitcakes as doorstops, although John McCain once described Texas icon Ross Perot as "nuttier than a fruitcake."
Yes, even in politics, this ancient cake plays a significant role.
Yet between the beginning of October and the middle of December, Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana will churn out 80,000 pounds of the stuff every single day. That's more than 4 million pounds of fruitcake from one bakery in the few months before Christmas, enough for a few hundred cakes. Well, 1.5 million, actually. Someone must like these doorstops. In fact, employment jumps by some 700 people in Corsicana during fruitcake season, which comes once a year there, once every four years in the rest of the nation. "It's kind of like authors and reporters," says Collin Street vice president and partner John Crawford of the fruitcake's reputation. "You don't judge the good by the bad." We're not sure what he meant by that.
According to Crawford, good ingredients make good fruitcake, plain and simple. "Damn, there's some good ones," he says, "but damn, there's some bad ones." Crawford refuses even to taste his competitor's product for fear of tainting his taste buds with doorstop- or landfill-quality cake. Yes, 4 percent of Americans believe fruitcake belongs in a landfill. Environmentally friendly garbage--another boon to humankind.
While acknowledging the existence of bad fruitcake, Crawford points out that repeat customers make up 80 percent of Collin Street's sales. Either there's a lot of hate in the world, or some edible fruitcake actually exists. "We hear fruitcake jokes," Crawford says, "but we know they're not talking about our product."
So what are the green things in fruitcake?
Well, according to Crawford they could be anything--cherries, most likely, in poor-quality fruitcakes, the product of genetic engineering gone awry, no doubt. Aside from grapes and gooseberries...and pomegranates...and star fruit...oh, and limes, few green fruits grow in nature.
Green fruit, then, must be chemically induced (creating countless laboratory jobs, another benefit of the fruitcake industry).
Collin Street dyes pineapple chunks green. Other companies use dyed cherries.
You probably should check the label before setting your fruitcake against the door.