I recently visited a mall on Black Friday. I wasn’t there to shop, but rather to observe the North American Lunatic in its natural habitat.

When I wasn’t avoiding fist fights to get into the bathroom or crowd surfing my way to the Orange Julius stand, I found time to browse around, and I saw something that made me pause and realize I was standing before an item that crawled out from the Scroogy muck and has made its cultural impact for the holidays.

Of course, I’m talking about the ugly sweater, something that was once just a sweater that was offensive to the eyes because it was worn by people so filled with the Christmas spirit, that it appeared as though the Christmas spirit had been puked all over their clothing.

In recent years, however, it’s become a pop-culture phenomenon, seated comfortably and joyfully in the mix of tried and true Christmas traditions like eggnog chugging, poinsettia-eating contests and winter streaking — all in the same night at the ER. People even have get-togethers where the guest with the ugliest sweater is now considered the life of the party — what a turnaround!

In my constant quest to be on the cutting edge of standards and practices for all times of the year, I think another Christmas black sheep will soon be sheared, worn and embraced by the populace, and that’s the fruitcake.

Although I know plenty of people who say they like fruitcake, I never believe them as the only person I’ve ever witnessed actually eat one was my great-grandmother during a party on Christmas Eve in 1993 where the remainder of the guests huddled in a corner and attempted not to retch at the sight.

Before I continue on, I think it’s best to review a little history of the fruitcake as I’ve researched all things about fruitcake on the computer…and the computer I was using wasn’t even connected to the Internet, which is one of many mysteries fruitcakes seem to hold.

The origins of the fruitcake stretch back to the days of ancient Rome as Roman armies and later Christian armies supplied soldiers with “satura,” a bar consisting of seeds, fruits, nuts and barley mash and was considered to be the prototype of modern fruitcake. While the cakes were full of healthy carbohydrates and fats, the soldiers didn’t eat the cakes, but used them to pummel other soldiers in combat as the dense objects effectively obliterated ancient battle armor.

Into the middle ages, the British version of the fruitcake started out as “plum porridge” and contained meat, wine, sherry, fruit juices, sugar and preserved fruits and was also known as “puke soup.”

That goop was soon changed from porridge to a pudding as it was baked, and it notoriously spread throughout England, even landing into the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” in the form of the following lyrics from the song’s lesser known unabridged version…

“Oh, bring us some figgy pudding

Oh, bring us some figgy pudding

Oh, bring us some figgy pudding

And bring it right here

On second thought, no thank you

On second thought, no thank you

On second thought, no thank you

We’ve clearly gone mad”

What’s known as the modern Christmas fruitcake came to America by the colonists before the American Revolution, but was actually a failed attempt to crush the spirits of colonists by British spies by making them believe they needed to eat fruitcake outdoors in the nude during the winter holidays or a fruit famine will strike the land.

With that history out of the way, we need to understand how a fruitcake is made, what goes into it that gives it that special…what the French call “caca.”

An average fruitcake is made up of 70 percent dried fruits like raisins, pineapples, cherries, papayas and pecans with 30 percent of the fruitcake consisting of a cake batter that holds everything together when baked. More traditional fruitcakes have even incorporated brandy, whiskey or rum (or maybe all of the above, if you’re feeling adventurous) into the mix.

Now, for my recipe to weasel its way into the Christmas season, the first thing that needs done is to keep the ingredients the same for an average fruitcake, but change the ratio of cake to the dried fruits and nuts.

I’m thinking a successful cake will have 60 percent batter with 40 percent fruit and nuts or even have equal parts at 50/40, if you’re bad at math like me.

Once baked and cooled, you want to incorporate alcohol by adding the standard rum along with gin, vodka, tequila and triple sec.

Let the alcohol soak in the cake for three days or even three minutes if you don’t want to wait. You then pick up the cake, hold it over a glass full of ice and wring it so the alcohol is drained from the cake and into the glass, then discard the cake and enjoy your Christmas-on-Long-Island Iced Tea.

So raise and squeeze your cakes and stifle your vomit, because the fruitcake is here to stay and evolve...so says my computer that’s not hooked up to the Internet.

According to Hofmann is written by staff reporter Mark Hofmann of Rostraver Township. He hosts the “Locally Yours” radio show on WMBS 590 AM every Friday. His book, “Stupid Brain,” is available on Amazon.com.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.