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  • Noshing on

    Happy 2019! It's a new year--time for a restorative. Me? Bok choy broth with tofu for lunch. The purple tinge is not your hangover talking to you--I added purple and gold "black" carrots to the bowl and it got a little Rose Parade on me.

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    Copyright 2008-2019Slow Food Fast. All writing and images on this blog unless otherwise attributed or set in quotes are the sole property of Slow Food Fast. Please contact DebbieN via the comments form for permissions before reprinting or reproducing any of the material on this blog.

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Fruitcake and the Jews

A week or so ago, just before the Chanukah madness, my husband brought home what he assumed were The Goods from the local Vons (Safeway chain affiliate on the west coast)–a classic fruitcake, green and red candied citron glowing evilly amid chunks of walnut and raisins and other less identifiable bits and topped with syrupy pecans and glacéed cherries. Tacky as hell, we know. We love fruitcake anyway.

Why do Jews like fruitcake more than Christians do? You know, the kind of indestructible fruitcake everyone jokes about passing off to some unsuspecting cousin after having received it 20 years earlier and having kept the tin in the closet all that time underneath some shoes. The kind the British refer to as “doorstop”. The kind all modern cake blogs decry when they present their own lighter, cakier, less fruity and less chewy version as “fruitcake you’ll actually like.” THAT fruitcake.

Well. Private Selection or not, the cake from Vons was…I don’t know if there are new legal restrictions on using rum or bourbon or other booze as a baking ingredient these days (or ice cream flavor; hard to find Rum Raisin anymore). Maybe it’s a California-does-rehab thing, or just a huge downgrading of quality, but it. Was. Awful.

No rum. No bourbon or other appropriate flavoring. Instead, the loaf was permeated with an aggressively soapy flavor/odor (we couldn’t even tell which), horridly artificial and perfumy like fruit-scented liquid hand soap. Or that overpowering Dove soap I always hated as a kid. You couldn’t even taste the raisins or walnuts, which by all accounts, including visual inspection, were present.

We were, perhaps for the first time ever, not tempted to eat any more, not even to try a tiny second taste the next day to see if it was really as bad as we thought the first time. Just passing the open packet on the table was enough to convince us the bar of Dove that must have fallen into the batter was still giving that loaf its younger-looking complexion. After several days of forlorn looks in its direction, we actually threw it out.

In any case, I’ve been looking for a trustworthy recipe for fruitcake ever since and not succeeding much. In a place where there is no fruitcake, strive thou to make taka a fruitcake. (Not exactly sure what the “taka” part means in Yiddish; the way my mother says it, it means something like “especially” or “such a”, but less polite and more ironic, as you might use it when pointing out how incredibly garish and over-the-top the neighbor’s Christmas lights are with the Continue reading

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