This past Christmas I hit the mother lode of childhood dreams. Not counting the ones that involve outwitting sword toting gnomes in faraway groves or flying upon the silver winged backs of sunset bound geese, but rather the indulgent sort which has one locked hostage within a chocolate factory where one must eat their way out. A box of chocolate truffles, one assorted mix, 2 kinds of peppermint bark, Andes candies, homemade marshmallows, candy canes big and small, Mozartkugeln, Baci chocolates, chocolate covered Oreo cookies, 2 kinds of Ferrero Rocher, Toblerone, and bespectacled chocolate Santas, each beckoning silently within the snug glitter confines of a tweaked out confectionary tower. It is now abundantly obvious that I am all talk and of meek mousy action as I measure youthful ideal against current truth in the easy recollection of that horror felt so long ago. I was in my best friend’s room a good month and a half after Easter, content- when I accidentally spied a hapless squashed basket discarded thoughtlessly upon injured side, sugary contents splayed across the unsympathetic floor of her closet. Brimming with more than a little scorn and rushing towards a single purple jelly bean, I vowed with all of the fervor that my nine year old self usually reserved for Muppets and Mad Libs, to treat all candy which should happen to fall under my possession with respect and proper gluttony. Who knew that today I would eat crow instead.
It may have been the fact that I turned 40 last year and the perils of periodontal disease kept entering my mind a few seconds after popping a sticky gooey treat into my mouth. This recent concern with tooth decay had me gracelessly swishing water about my mouth every time I took a drink. But really this home spun prevention didn’t do much to allay my fears. In the end at a time of plenty and over the top, I ate very little, meager and uncustomary. To boot the rush and gorge of food, people, and things had me stuffed and overwhelmed long before I hit December. Much to the dismay of my nine year old candy worshipping self, there never was a chance for a sugar induced coma. Rather than romping, devouring, and tra-la-la-la-ing through the usual holiday bonanza, I nibbled, grazed, and skimmed and consequently the Simon Says of Christmas Feast was forced to strike me out, sequestered to the side lines to contemplate my social misdeed.
Passing through that invisible portal delineating one year from the next, I couldn’t help but feel the whiplash. Whoa and behold our plates are ripped away from us, the all you can eat buffet is buttoned shut, and we are collectively shamed into looking at our belly fat. In strange Rip Van Winkle off beat tempo, I find myself hungering for some post season fruit cake instead. After all what better trail of crumbs is there to find my way home? Diligently working through dense heavy slice after another, morning after next I consider the secret delight of eating a particular food out of context with its associated surrounding. And it blossoms into growing insight as I also wonder over how I could like something so crammed full of fruit, when at other times I can really do without (another story). Or marvel over how I am enjoying the thick citrus perfume of kumquat rind-shouldn’t that be impossibly disgusting? and the warm slow meander of brandy- gross. The path of our days weaving through time is more than a collection of events shuttled together. It could be reconciliation, a thoughtful response between what one assumes and what actually is, our past meeting up with our present. It really is no surprise that Janus the two faced Roman gatekeeper blesses thresholds or nodes along the path because to navigate effectively we need to locate ourselves in relation to several differing positions or perspectives. The more the better. May we move forward into 2008 sure footed, tentative, sideways or galloping- but always embracing the All that comes our way. Feast on!
Better Late than Never Fruitcake: This is an adaptation from Alice Medrich’s Fruit and Nut Cake. Really it is fruitcake devoid of those giveaway holiday spices. Amazingly one, one inch cube when famished takes away the edge. This would definitely be my choice for stuck-on-a-desert-island food, with the booze of course.
¾ C flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ Tblsp. Unsweetened cocoa (next time would increase this)
½ tsp. allspice (didn’t really taste this)
¾ C light muscovado sugar
½ C dried pitted prunes halved
½ C dried cherries
1 ¼ C dried pitted dates quartered
¾ C kumquat in syrup (slice and seed kumquats, throw in some sugar and water and cook until the mass is vibrant orange, soft and gorgeous. Freezes well, an interesting add in to chocolate chip cookies).
3 C walnut halves
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter a large loaf pan and set aside. In large bowl lightly mix all of the dry ingredients and then dump in the dried fruit and nuts. It is easiest to combine the lumpy mixture with clean hands. In a small bowl whisk the eggs and vanilla together and pour over the fruits and nuts. Mix well until everything is coated with a light batter and then dump into the reserved pan. Bake until golden brown and when a knife pierced through comes out relatively clean. This is a little tricky since I kept going through fruit. My cake took about 1 hr and 45 minutes but I believe this was because of the extra moisture from the kumquat syrup. Alice’s recipe calls for about 1 hr. 10 min. When cooled, remove the cake from pans and brush or pour brandy over top. Enjoy anytime!