Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Blessings in Bourbon

Okay, the truth is I hate fruitcakes. Despite the fact that I live sixty miles from one of the most famous fruitcake bakeries in the world (see here), I hate fruitcakes.

I don't think it's only an urban myth that there are only a dozen fruitcakes in the world. I firmly believe it. They are just recycled (read here: regifted) over and over each year. I'd never actually eat one. Use it as a doorstop, maybe, but not eat it.

Imagine my disgust when I received not one, but TWO, fruitcakes for Christmas this year. From the same freaking bakery.

By now, you know that I'm Italian and Irish--a lethal combination. Both sides of my family were incredibly fertile, and I have thirty-two aunts and uncles. Two of my elderly aunts (one from each side of the family) sent me a fruitcake this year. Looking at the name on the box, I immediately realized why: the cakes came from Gethsemani Farms.

Gethsemani: the orchard in which Jesus watched and suffered the night before He was crucified. No wonder my Catholic aunts couldn't resist. A masterful stroke of promotion. The company probably buys the mailing lists from every Catholic church and nursing home in the country.

And, to raise the stakes, elevating their fruitcake above, say, Harry & David's pears (which I would truly have welcomed as a gift), the brochure says that the fruitcakes at Gethsemani Farms are baked by TRAPPIST MONKS. How could a good Christian even think about selecting a gift from Hickory Farms instead?

Anyway, here I was with two flipping fruitcakes. I hesitated to ship them off to one of my friends or relatives. I mean, a fruitcake??? They'd be bound to know it was a re-gift.

Then, I was on the phone with my friend R, who happened to mention that her daughter wanted mom to bake a fruitcake for the holiday season. I leaped to the rescue, bringing her part of my Gethsemani bounty. I shoved the other cake into my refrigerator the week before Christmas, planning to palm it off on some unsuspecting guest . . . maybe a Mormon missionary come to the door to save my soul. Didn't give it another thought since.

Until this weekend. I'm stuck in the house with a serious case of PMS and an ice storm sweeping Texas. My friends say PMS makes them cranky. Not me. It makes me ravenous. Ravenous and locked inside for three days. Not a pretty picture.

I checked the cupboard: popcorn, Ritz crackers, more popcorn (cheddar cheese and carmel, a Christmas gift). The refrigerator yielded cheese, apples, a couple of Harry & David pears (at least one of my relatives has good sense) and, of course, the fruitcake.

I really wanted something sweet so, with trepidation, I opened the fruitcake tin and cut the plastic wrap surrounding the ringed treat.

The minute I tore the wrapping, the strong smell of bourbon assaulted my nose.

Bourbon? I cut a tiny slice of cake.

Oh. My. God. We're not talking fruitcake here, we're talking ambrosia. Ambrosia from the Greek words for "not mortal." Food of the gods.

I'll be the first to admit that alcoholism runs--nay, gallops--in my family. For that reason, I'm not a big drinker. But, of course, this was holy fruitcake made by the Trappist monks at Gethsemani Abbey. That made it all right. Besides, the bourbon was probably just an afterthought.

Did I mention the Abbey/Farm is in Kentucky? As in Kentucky bourbon?

I've been nibbling on this blessed fruitcake all weekend. I haven't even minded that I was trapped inside by the storm, or that I'm working on edits or that I need to get the Passionate Ink membership lists in order. We're talking heaven on earth here.

I went online to check out this Trappist abbey with its heavenly bourbon recipe. Here's what their website says:

Since 1848, when 44 Trappist monks from the Abbey of Melleray in western France made themselves a new home in the hills of central Kentucky, Gethsemani has been a hardworking community. Supporting themselves at first by farming, the monks now depend on their mail-order sales of homemade fruitcake, cheese and bourbon fudge.

Bourbon fudge? Bourbon FUDGE!! For a mere $16.50, you can get a one pound box of fudge while, for $29, you can buy a 2 1/2 pound fruitcake. Did I mention that both are heavily laced with bourbon?

If you want a piece of heaven, go here. I'm telling you, this fruitcake makes Harry & David look like pikers.

Gotta go. I hear a fruitcake calling.


lainey bancroft said...

LOL Maya!
A fruitcake by any other name? So I guess it would be safe to say you're a devotee of 'bourbon cake' but don't care much for fruit cake.

My kids would probably tell ya they'd sooner eat spinach than fruitcake, but dear old Auntie Margaret makes a 'cherry cake' (with 40 proof cherries, of course) that they'd sell their little souls for.

Bourbon fudge, BTW :0 Count me in!

Laura Vivanco said...

Ah, this sounds like British Christmas cake. We have what we call fruit-cake, but it's not the same as the American kind. Ours is moist and often well-drenched in brandy. If people are making them at home the traditional thing to do is to make the cake several months before Christmas and then regularly inject it with alcohol throughout the intervening period. Even without the alcohol, though, British fruitcakes are soft and slightly crumbly.

Maya Reynolds said...

Lainey: I'm already thinking about buying another fruitcake when this one is finished. Scary, isn't it?

Laura: I suspect you're right. This cake is more like what you're describing than the traditional American fruitcake. This one was soft, moist and crumbly. I got up to answer the front door on Saturday. When I came back, Bob (my cat) was busy chewing the remainder of my fruitcake. I came close to murdering him.

Laura Vivanco said...

Some pets clearly have a taste for delicacies. Over Christmas we were visiting my parents-in-law and their dog stole my special chocolate and managed to eat half of it before anyone noticed what she was up to.

She was fine, by the way, but the chocolate was a write-off.

Alex Adams said...

Holy cow, I started out reading this post thinking, "If only she tried Gethsemani Farms fruitcake, she'd change her mind." We discovered this brand this year and had the same reaction you did. So much so that after we ordered--and ate--a medium cake, we went back and ordered the large. Best. Fruitcake. Ever.

Maya Reynolds said...

Alex: You're singing my song. I have edits due back to my editor right now. One of the ways I'm incentivizing myself is with a promise that I'll buy a small fruitcake with the next installment of the advance. Small because if I got the large, I wouldn't fit through the doors.