The Maligned Fruitcake: Outlawed, Tossed and Catapulted into Outer Space
I hear there are people that love fruitcake. I’ve just never met one of them. I suppose it comes down to which variety you have tried. There are SO many variations of this now traditional Christmas food that there’s a chance some people have eaten fruitcake that actually tasted good. The one thing for sure about the fruitcake is that it’s enduring.
Fruitcake dates back to Egyptian times and has been preserved just as long! The ancient Egyptians used to place them on the tombs of their dead kind with other things they considered essential for their journey to the afterlife where they still remain today. Knowing the efforts people go to today to be rid of the nasty Christmas gift, perhaps there was another reason they buried it.
Roman soldiers and crusaders were sent to battle with fruitcake saddlebags. Supposedly it was due to the nearly imperishable nature of the food, though we have to wonder if perhaps it was just another effort to be rid of it!
Over the centuries more and more has been added to the fruitcake and perhaps this is why they have become so disliked. After all, too many cooks spoil the broth. By the 16th century many cups of sugar were added to the recipe. Then candied fruits and nuts. By the time the Victorian era arrived, alcohols had been added to the mix too.
This led to fruitcake being proclaimed “sinfully rich” and banned across Europe in the 1800s. The ban was eventually lifted and fruitcake became a common companion with English Teas. The overloaded fruitcake eventually made it to America and has become a traditional part of the Christmas season.
As the popularity of the fruitcake grew, so did the multitude of ways to get rid to it. In 1969 someone decided to launch a fruitcake into outer space with the Apollo 11 mission. I’m told this was not in an effort to get rid of the fruitcake. Supposedly it was the only food sent into space with them that could be eaten as a real food and not a space age food tablet. My guess is there was little difference in the density.
Since then others have worked to catapult the fruitcake as far as possible out of their lives. About 22 years ago in Manitou Springs Colorado a man named Floyd O’Neil organized an annual Colorado fruitcake toss. This is a serious activity. Fruitcake tosses are organized into categories, the kids fruitcake toss, the hand toss and then the serious fruitcake tossers use giant slingshots, catapults and even canons in an attempt to launch them into space for some poor alien to munch on.
You can even rent fruitcakes for a dollar for the toss if you weren’t lucky enough to be gifted one for Christmas. Apparently fruitcakes are so durable they can not only last in a tomb for centuries, they can survive being launched in a canon and be rented out again!
So be sure to bake or obtain a fruitcake on National Fruitcake Day. Then use it to celebrate the Colorado Fruitcake Toss. Or if you don’t live in Colorado organize your own fruitcake toss for the National Fruitcake Toss Day on January 3rd.
Or for a nice variation, you could try the Italian version which is Panettone. Like fruitcake it has fruit and nuts, but a lighter consistency and no alcohol. Though I can’t say I’m that fond of it either. Then there is the German version which is called Stollen which is a raised bread with fruit and nuts, often a marzipan filling. I consider Stollen quite delicious actually.
Stollen is a bit hard to make, so if you want to try it order it from our Amazon links. Or forget the more traditional fruitcakes completely and bake up some banana nut bread with this recipe. It isn’t a Christmas tradition, but at least it’s delicious.
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