There are many holiday traditions I love and encourage – growing up in the UK I have a few that are not US centric that my very American family indulges me in. I tend to pick and choose the ones that are meaningful to me and adopt others that I wish had been my tradition growing up. As a family we have made new traditions together that suit us and our personalities.
We are not exactly the traditional types so our holiday movies are Christmas Vacation, Die Hard and Scrooged as opposed to Miracle on 34th St. Our Christmas cookies tend to be GingerDead Men or zombie sumo wrestlers – metaphysical discussions as to whether a particular misshapen cookie looks more like the Baby Jesus or a manatee (the manatee was the final decision on that one). Eric singing off key to the dogs to encourage them to join in and our 14 year old asking if he needs “mental and or physical help”
Christmas crackers are a UK tradition that I have always hung on to and although my immediate family are used to it, we had a lot of people over for dinner this Christmas that haven’t spent the day with us in the past so it was highly amusing to have to explain what this was. Even though more than one person present thought I had lost my mind, everyone dutifully pulled their crackers. Of course I made everyone wear the stupid party hat, read the truly dreadful joke and trade the little gifts inside for the one they really wanted – as is tradition…
However one UK tradition that I “dropped like it was hot” a long time ago is the fruitcake. For those of you not in the know this may sound like a delicious dessert, but it is of the devil! We used to joke that there is only one fruitcake in the world and it just gets re-gifted every year. No one actually wants to eat it – these things are denser than a black star!
Through some sort of primordial process, raisins fruit peel and other unidentifiable ingredients are compacted into an almost completley black brick that should not be consumed by humans. In a failed attempt to make it more palatable, a thin layer of marzipan and then rock hard icing goes on top. This abomination is then considered dessert!
Only the British would have the nerve to create anything this bad and label it food. Don’t believe me? Supporting evidence – Shepherd’s Pie, Toad in the Hole, Salad Cream, Jaffa Cakes and who can forget Spotted Dick – these are all considered food items, I swear! Look it up. All just as bad as they sound – avoid like the plague if you are visiting the UK.
Not only is fruitcake inflicted on people at Christmas but is also the traditional wedding cake. What a terrible way to celebrate the beginning of your life together? Not this girl – we had a delicious tiramisu flavored cake when we got married – the Italians really know how to live life, love and cook!
This year my father in law brought a small fruitcake over – I am not entirely sure if he was making a joke or had been taken in by the jaunty holly leaf icing on top but for the first time in decades I had a fruitcake in the house (in addition to the usual inmates) Apparently Eric hadn’t learned his lesson from years ago when I told him not to order the Shepherds Pie in an London pub (he ate it anyway and regretted it for several days) – it is now known as the “Shepherd’s Pie Incident” and is the stuff of legend…
Despite the fact that the offending fruitcake was only six inches long but inexplicably weighed 50lbs, Eric could not believe that it could be that bad – for some reason he thought I was exaggerating for effect. So using tried and true tactics of all wives everywhere, I said “Fine – if you don’t believe me then you will just have to try it for yourself – but don’t say I didn’t warn you” He was understandably unable to ignore this challenge.
I wish I could adequately describe the full gamut of expressions that flickered across his face in quick succession – Disbelief, Horror, Anger, Betrayal – finally ending in a small grimace of Pain – the sort of expression that says I have just smelled something bad and believe I may have walked in an unexpected dog barf on the rug….
Suffice to say Eric is now a believer and he promptly dropped the rest of the fruitcake in the trash while my 14 year old and I clung to each other tears of laughter rolling down our faces.
I had warned Eric that that stuff would sit in his belly like a rock and after some discussion we decided that the packaging should have a health warning “Fruitcake – it’s better than a rock….”