My friend Don, a newspaperman in Florida, sent me an article last week about fruitcake. Actually it was about a group of Trappist monks in southern Missouri who make fruitcakes on a year-round basis to support their monastic way of life. The monks at Assumption Abbey in Ava, Missouri, bake 25,000 two-pound fruitcakes each year, pray over each one individually, and then ship them out to happy consumers for a modest $31.00 each.
I know Ava, Missouri, quite well but have never been to the locally-famous abbey. Perhaps next year I will order one of their signature fruitcakes. This year I bought one from Costco - and it is delicious.
Many of my friends get their noses out-of-joint when the holiday staple of fruitcake is brought up in a conversation. If the cakes are carefully crafted, such as the one that I got at Costco, then I am a fan. A fruitcake represents a wonderful mix of tastes and textures that is heavy on fruits and nuts and stickiness, and short on cake.
Fruitcake originated in ancient Rome, and it was one of the foods that the crusaders took on their long trips from Europe to the Holy Land. At one point in the Middle Ages the Catholic Church got involved in a conflict over fruitcakes and decreed that butter could not be used in the recipe because it interfered with proper fasting. Pope Innocent VIII felt the need to issue a "Butter Letter" or "Butterbrief" in which he extricated the Church from the fruitcake controversy.
Alcohol has also been a common ingredient in fruitcakes, and I have sampled many wonderful ones that were liberally soaked in rum. Not only does the alcohol taste good, it is medicinal (really!) and fruitcakes with a healthy dose of alcohol will, according to Wikipedia, remain edible for many years.
Surely the survivalists and preppers are well aware of that. And fruitcake sounds so much better than jerky and dehydrated vegetables!