Rep. Earl Blumenauer's holiday haul: 264 homemade fruitcakes for family and friends
The Congressional Fruitcake Caucus consists of one wildly enthusiastic member: Rep. Earl Blumenauer. The Oregon Democrat is in the final stages of his annual fruitcake frenzy: 264 handmade mini-loaves for friends, family, staffers and a few lucky members of Congress.
"As you know, fruitcake can be daunting to some," he told us Wednesday. "Most people have a vision of fruitcake as dense, dark, with the texture of plywood and a taste to match. I offer a lighter, cakier version."
The Hill's leading expert on the yuletide concoction got hooked on fruitcake as a child, when his Texas uncle sent one to his family every Christmas. About 25 years ago, Blumenauer found a recipe that resembled his uncle's -- no nuts, but lots of dried fruit and spices. The rest is a secret. The first year he made one cake at his cabin on the Pacific Coast. The next year he made extras to give away. Now the annual project has taken on a life of its own as he shops for ingredients and bakes and wraps each cake.
He describes the process in a manifesto on his blog: "The Zen of the Fruitcake includes far more than the 'high' I get from baking. Sharing the fruitcake experience from the beginning has generated a torrent of fruitcake cards, cartoons, and news accounts from friends (and others) over the years."
Blumenauer spent the past few days personally delivering his cakes on the Hill. Most friends got one small loaf; some offices received two or three sliced on a platter, along with a mini-bottle of an Oregon pear brandy to drizzle on top and a card that reads: "Enjoyed by Few, Appreciated by Many, Questioned by All." Thursday night, he'll bring cakes on the plane for the rest of the congressional delegation headed to the climate-change conference in Copenhagen.
"I find the majority of people like it," Blumenauer said. In the interest of journalistic objectivity, our office sampled one -- and the verdict was two thumbs up. "I like it because it doesn't taste like most fruitcakes," said The Post's food critic Tom Sietsema. "Having the pear brandy on it turns ordinary into extraordinary."
The Reliable Source
December 16, 2009; 2:50 PM ET
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