For as long as I can remember, my mother has made fruitcakes every year at holiday time. She used her mother’s recipe, written by hand, likely passed down from my great grandmother. Though in modern times they became more of a punchline in America, such fruitcakes were and continue to be common across Europe in the winter. Their origin derives from those days when sugar was difficult to source and fruit was a luxury, preserving it in alcohol was a way to make these highly valued confections last.
Now that my mom is 90 making these cakes is a challenge, the batter is so thick that even in her younger years she needed help from my father to stir it, but she’s determined to do so this year. She revels in the joy of sharing them with friends and family. Equally important, it seems to me, is the methodical process, a way of mindfully making order amid a hectic time of year.
Of course, our current times have gotten more hectic by an order of magnitude. Perhaps that is ever more reason to make fruitcake. What if each of us rededicated ourselves to making, sharing and/or appreciating something from our past, something that would give the season, and our passage through it, more value.
In this issue, we offer other ideas for food gifts to share, Steve’s Gingered Pear chutney and a cheddar cracker recipe I’ve been obsessing over. Both would work well on the cheese board you might also be building for guests and we’ve got you covered with a definitive list of great local shops. Steve recounts our trip to Denmark last summer and the lovely cuisine we sampled (which incidentally emphasizes the art of preservation, much like the fruitcakes of yore).
For those of you looking for some new ideas for your winter feast table, we encourage you to think outside the roasting pan with alternative main dishes, we introduce you to a classic Filipino dessert that just might replace your pumpkin pie, we explore fried sweets to light up Chanukah and we make a convincing case for swapping out wine for cider as your go-to holiday beverage.
On the catering side, we take a closer look at one of our longest-running holiday party clients, The Graham Group, and their annual event held at The Franklin Institute. As always, we share The Franklin Institute’s exciting upcoming events.
Please enjoy, and make the most of this holiday season. Even if you don’t make fruitcake, may it be filled with meaning and appreciation.
P.S. Please read Craig LaBan’s beautiful tribute to our dear friend and colleague Kamol Phutlek, who died in August, leaving behind a rich culinary legacy in Philadelphia.