I love fruitcake and I think my Christmas sweater is adorable. I am beyond annoyed that everyone makes fun of fruitcake and calls Christmas sweaters “ugly.”
Take my fruitcake, for instance. And yes, you could use it for a doorstop — that’s because it has nearly a pound of toasted almonds and/or pecans, cups of whole glazed cherries and large pieces of candied pineapple. Of course I do know that there are horrible store-bought fruitcakes that have little bits of dried up citron (citrus peel) and tiny currants about the size of mosquitoes. And in between those is some kind of indifferent tasteless “cake.” So, yes, that is not anything anyone really wants. In fact, it’s not even real “fruitcake.” A real fruitcake like mine has just enough batter — made with real butter and real vanilla — to keep those big chunks of fruit and nuts together.
When I make it — and I haven’t in years — I start in September. If it’s really too hot for baking, I can push it to October. The point is to make it far enough in advance that the flavors can blend. And, besides all the fruit and nuts, there is one added ingredient which is not absolutely necessary, but certainly makes a huge difference — rum. Ah, yes. Okay, you can use brandy, bourbon or a liqueur of your choice, but I prefer dark rum. While the cake is just out of the oven and still warm, I pour a jigger or maybe two, of the rum over it, then wrap it in parchment paper and again in foil, so it can absorb all that goodness. And I do it several more times over the next few weeks just to, uh, make sure it doesn’t dry out, you know? In the old days, I used clean dish towels but ended up having to throw them out since they had absorbed their share of the liqueur and between that and the stickiness, they were impossible to clean, so parchment paper and foil it is.
The last time I made that fruitcake was several years ago when I took it to a party. When the hostess discovered it on the dessert table, she said (in a voice dripping with disgust), “who brought this fruitcake?” I didn’t own up and have no idea what happened to it. It probably went in the trash. If I’d thought I could sneak it out, I would’ve brought it home and enjoyed snacking on it for weeks to come. I never made another.
As for the “ugly Christmas sweaters,” who decreed that Christmas sweaters are ugly? Some are sort of silly, I admit, and now that the idea of “ugly” has caught on, I do see some that are made to be deliberately weird. Mine, however, which I’ve had for many years, is just as cute as can be. I got it at the after-Christmas sale one year. I remember my mother saying, “but Christmas is over,” to which I replied, “Yes, but God is faithful and there will be another Christmas next year.” And I have found an occasion to wear it every year at least once. One side has a cute little cottage, and the other has a handsome reindeer who used to have a bell round his neck. The bell is gone, but I still think he’s handsome.
The whole idea of making fun of Christmas rather irks me. What’s wrong with having pretty sweaters and eating really good stuff? How about some fudge, or my mother’s marvelous rum balls? Oh, and speaking of fudge, here’s the poem I wrote years ago for Phyllis Diller’s Christmas card back in 2010. She had started it with ‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house, nothing would fit me, not even a blouse,” and asked me to finish it for her. So here goes:
” ‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house, nothing would fit me, not even a blouse.
I searched through my closet for something to wear, but my clothes had all shrunk – it just isn’t fair.
I didn’t indulge. Well — maybe a little. A few pieces of fudge, a bit of nut brittle.
But it’s not my fault, it’s the Holiday Season; I can’t say “NO” without a good reason.
So I hope you’ll excuse the rather sad fact I’m writing this greeting wearing only my hat.”