A Slice of Fruit Cake

October 6, 2005



Hmmm. Maybe I should include a broader “slice of life” here more often. I’m thinking my typical angst is wearing thin. It sure gets old to me, so I can only imagine what it does to a reader.

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of my internet time looking for recipes, cooking tips and gadgets. I even started reading a cooking blog and realized it may become my next writing frontier, especially since the whole advice bit seems to be unpopular.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear: as a chore, I dislike cooking. Cooking for the unapppreciative mob that is my family sucks the fun right out of the whole experience. It becomes drudgery. They don’t like my home made pecan waffles, they want *Eggos*! They don’t like my home made pizza, they want *Tombstone*. They don’t like my homemade bread, they want the stuff that’s sat in the store for days. They don’t want biscuits and gravy made from scratch, they want *Toaster Scrambles*. What the hell is wrong with these people? I’m trying to find ways to save money and improve our health (generally speaking) and they all prefer expensive, processed crap.

Okay, I didn’t set out to do a rant on my family’s dysfunctional eating habits. If I want to rant, I can find lots more fun things to cover. But back to food and me. Specifically, me buying, growing, cooking and eating it. Arwyn and the boys just eat it. For Arwyn, “cooking” mostly consists of taking it out of a wrapper and toasting it or heating it in a microwave or oven. Or pouring milk on it.

Sorry, I’m ranting again.

Okay, so as a chore, cooking sucks. However, there are times when it’s okay. While my kids seem to prefer Tombstone, they do enjoy making the pizzas, mainly patting and squishing the dough. In his defense, Thomas will eat almost any pizza but he gets super excited about making it. He wants to be in on every phase, from the dough to the sauce to the toppings. If I’m baking, the boys are right there. I’ll occasionally let them dump, pour and stir but they are mostly entertained by the process of flour and eggs becoming cookies, cakes and other stuff they like. And keeping young kids entertained is a challenge. Getting them involved in the process is a constructive form of entertainment.

I know quite a few dads that cook, but very few that bake. If cooking is applied chemistry, baking is akin to rocket science. I suppose there are still guys out there who think baking is “women’s work.” Quite a few women think that, too. But for now, keep your stereotypes to yourself. As every military man knows, the chow hall has more effect on morale than any other single entity or factor.

Today’s project was Fruitcake. I’ve never made it before and have never really seen it made. I don’t know if I’ve even eaten it more than 3 times in my life. And I’m not even sure if I like it. I like all the stuff in it. Or most of the stuff in mine. I went fairly light on the candied fruit and stuck with the dried sort. Problem is, all those dried fruits and nuts are mostly one color; brown. There’s light brown (light raisins), reddish brown (craisins), dark brown (dates), almost blackened brown (dried currants), and light with a brownish hue (slivered almonds)…you get the idea. The candied fruit adds a bit extra to festive-ize the color, but the flavor of those things is too much, at least for me. So I tried to cut back on that a bit. But maybe not enough. We’ll see in a couple months. They looked surprisingly edible once they came out of the oven. I wrapped and bagged them and they are sitting in an obscure, top-most part of the pantry to cure for 6+ weeks.

The idea behind this project was to have some things for Christmas that wouldn’t cause our already perilous financial position to totally hemorrage. So far, that grand baking experiment has been successful. I’ll give a cake a proper try on Thanksgiving. I’m thinking of experimenting with caramel corn and cookie/brownie mixes. I liked the fruitcake concept because I could start early.

I’m also open to other Christmas gifts that can save us from the poor house and might have a fun factor in them. We always do suger cookies and the boys like decorating them for the holidays.

My baking skills are adequate. I like looking at several recipes for the same thing in order to see any trends. For instance, I looked at dozens of fruitcake recipes. What I discovered was that I could substitute whatever nuts or fruits I wanted as long as the weight was kept constant. Or that fruit juice can be used instead of rum and brandy.

They may still end up as door stops, but least they’ll have a nice look to them.