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Complete Fruitcakes!

fruitcake

You'd have to be nutty as a fruitcake to eat a sentient dessert


Or incomplete fruitcakes as the case may be. Me, personally? I love the stuff, but I realize I am alone.

So, so very alone.

Are you alone and different from me and stuck with a mouldering or pickled lump of brownish carbs, fats, and assorted undigestables, covered in some unnamed and unnameable sticky substance, the whole Shoggoth-like agglomeration wrapped in hideously toxic-looking red or green “festive” plastic?

What you have there, my friend, is a fruitcake. And if you still have one lying around, and it’s not one you’re going to be feeding and watering (with booze, please, and none of your foofy white zin either) and then devouring once it’s achieved that peak of perfect pickleosity, then I’m assuming it’s not #1 on your favorite foods list.

But there is hope.

You don’t have to consume it at all! The ingenious folks in Manitou Springs, Colorado have found a way to turn what’s basically a brick made of calories and cholesterol into an extreme sport. This, my friends, is true genius: co-opting a seasonal calorie source and transforming it, simply by sheer can-do-ism, into an athletic activity.

Behold the annual Manitou Springs Fruitcake Toss.

Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake.” In Manitou Springs the local Chamber of Commerce encourages people to throw cake. Each January the community hosts its Great Fruitcake Toss, the strangely compelling spectacle in which participants fling fruitcakes through the air, competing in events that emphasize distance, accuracy, and showmanship. While the contest does nothing to improve the reputation of the much-maligned fruitcake, it has succeeded in attracting media attention to a town best known for its natural mineral springs and proximity to Pikes Peak.

Behold as well, the Manitou Springs Fruitcake Launch (trebuchets, what looks like a potato gun, and a crossbow are among the launchers). Behold, finally, the Manitou Springs Fruitcake CATCH. And behold, lastly, well, I won’t spoil the surprise. But it combines two of the most disliked physical objects of our time and only one of those is fruitcake.

A Merry MultiCulti Christmas!

From David Mamet to you:

But what do the Chinese do on Passover?

How is this night different from all other nights? WONTONS!

Why Santa Gets Cookies at Christmas

Cookies for Santa

He's a handsy little fellas

We’re all familiar with the tradition of leaving out cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve. Some smart households even supplement the offering with a glass of milk or eggnog, in the general interest of keeping the stealthy old bugger away from the liquor cabinet. But does anyone know why it’s cookies we offer instead of, say, aspic molds or cupcakes or platypus turnovers?

I do, and I’m here to tell you the secret.

Santa is a ninja.

No, wait, this makes total sense: Santa is a ninja, and he does not in fact eat all those cookies; goodness no! Imagine the calories in all those carb-laden treats! What Santa does is, he uses his magical powers, which already allow him to visit billions of homes leaving presents at each in a single night, to turn regular cookies into ninja cookies.

Stick with me here.

Before:

Christmas Gingerbread Men and Women, BEFORE

Christmas Gingerbread Men and Women, BEFORE

After:

Ninjabread men

Ninjabread Men: this is what happens when Santa gets his mitts on regular cookies

See how that works? And here’s a lovely Spode tidbit tray of Ninjabread Men, just exactly as you see them in the morning:

Spode Christmas tray chock full of ninjabread men

All I want for Christmas is…

THIS.

Bosch IXO Vino Cordless Lithium-Ion Screwdriver with Corkscrew Attachment

The Bosch IXO Vino Cordless Lithium-Ion Screwdriver with Corkscrew Attachment. Have you ever lived through the very special Hell of having been stuck house-sitting in the house of talented and prolific winemakers? Talented and prolific winemakers, I should add, whose house has a fully stocked cellar, a hot tub, wraparound views, a fridge specially stocked with treats chosen just for you, and a fireplace?

And, apparently, not. one. freaking. corkscrew.

I tried the shoe-banging method. I tried the push-the-cork-down method. I finally tried the put a long screw in the cork and pull it out with pliers method. But this handly little gadget would have saved me a great deal of stress as well as looking innocuous and coming in handy every time I buy something from Ikea.

The Shoe-Banging Method, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it because you are not French and Desperate:

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Pulla, pulla, get your pulla here!

Every family has holiday traditions, usually going way back to their ethnic roots.  I am of Irish, German and Finnish descent.  So, we had several festive traditions.  Getting drunk on whiskey and fighting with each other, getting drunk on beer and invading France and getting drunk on vodka and trying to kill Russians.  Family gatherings were lively.

Beautiful braided Pulla loaves.

The Finns had one other tradition besides the Russian thing.  Pulla.  Pulla is a wonderful holiday bread made with Cardamom.

I remember as a child having pulla at family gatherings.  The wonderful braided bread, golden and infused with the rich flavor of cardamom is one of the best memories of my childhood.  Remembering my Aiti (It was not until I was an adult that I realized that Aiti was a title – mother – rather than her name.  To this day I have to look to see what her first name was) on the rare occasions we made it to Minnesota or vice versa.

Anyway, in recent years I have missed the Pulla.  So, last year I decided to make some pulla myself.  I am not sure why I waited so long, it is not hard.  (With one little warning).

First some stuff:

Cardamom is about the third most expensive spice in the world, after Saffron and vanilla.  Cardamom spice is made from the seeds of the cardamom plant, a type of ginger native to India, Sri Lanka and parts of Southeast Asia. It has been used medicinally and as a flavoring for food for at least two thousand years Like saffron, cardamom is expensive because it is labor-intensive to produce. The seed pods are hand-picked before they are fully ripe to ensure the freshness of the seeds. There are about 12 seeds per seed pod.

India and Guatemala are the main producers of cardamom. It is a primary ingredient in curry, a popular additive to coffee in Arab countries and is widely used in Scandinavia to flavor baked goods.

It is the Scandinavia thing I come from even though the Finns are not Scandinavians.  Still they retain some traditions from their years of oppression under the jackboots of the Swedes.  In my family we had it at Christmas and at weddings and special occasions.  In the later years of my life I was much surprised when a Greek family I knew gave me a traditional Greek Easter Bread that was cardamom flavored and tasted very much as I remembered pulla.

Anyway, pulla is very delicious and not that hard to make.  Here comes my little warning, though.  I had the bread dough in a stand mixer and I noticed that the dough started to march up the bread hook.  This is a very dense, sticky dough, and throughout the mixing process kept working its way up the bread hook.  Even with a spatula and a steady nerve, it got all over the place.  Recently I have learned about  an aftermarket attachment you can get for your stand mixer that prevents that and if I can find out the link I will put it in this article.

Anyway, pulla is a great holiday bread and not that hard if you remember to watch out for the bread crawling up the mixer.

Here is the  recipe:

Pulla

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely crushed cardamom
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions:

Preparation:  2 hours

Total Time: 2 1/2 hrs

  1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Let cool until lukewarm.
  2. 2 Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, 4 eggs, and add 4 cups of flour and beat well; the dough should be smooth and glossy in appearance. Add the melted butter or margarine, and stir well. Beat again until the dough looks glossy. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough is stiff.  Knead by hand for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Place in a lightly greased mixing bowl, and turn the dough to grease the top. Cover with a clean dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled.
  4. Turn out again on to a floured surface, and divide into 3 parts. Divide each third into 3 again. Roll each piece into a 12 to 16 inch strip. Braid 3 strips into a loaf. You should get 3 large braided loaves. Lift the braids onto greased baking sheets. Let rise for 20 minutes.
  5. Brush each loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees F for 22 to 28 minutes. Check after 20 minutes as the bottom burns easily.

This is a great holiday bread, very traditional, and not that hard.  Other than the mixing, the toughest part for me was to remember how to braid things.  I had not braided anything since I used to braid string in 3rd or 4th grade, Lo’ those many years ago.

Anyway, try the recipe out.  I think you will like the results as will your friends and family.

(And if I have screwed this up royally, Finns can feel free to drop a comment.  Swedes – shut it.)

In finland you only get caught once

Erik Nabler,

N.B. Guest blogger Erik Nabler blogs regularly about drinks and drinking at the Liquor Locusts.

Thanksgiving Cocktails that are vile and that do not come from Sandra Lee

I know! I thought they all did, too!

This one comes from Twitter:

And, yeah, if you need a Sandra Lee fix today (remember, that Christmas episode is coming up!) here you go. Watch it and weep. Weep for our culture.

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Quote of the day: the Gouvernator

Well, it's not implants at least

I love Thanksgiving turkey. It’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Commando Curves

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Paula Deen on Thanksgiving, Vegetarianism, and that butter scene in Last Tango in Paris

Paula Deen on Dancing with Butter!!!

Paula Deen on Dancing with Butter!!!

Happy Holidays, y’all! Here is a lovely little interview from Vanity Fair, in which that li’l pat of sunshine Paula Deen holds forth on Thanksgiving etiquette, doggy bowel movements and their relation to the Survival Principle, and the infamous butter scene in Last Tango in Paris. You must read it. No, you MUST, y’all.

A snippet:

Do you have a Thanksgiving recipe that’s made entirely out of butter?

Just butter? I don’t know. I guess you could unwrap a stick of butter and pour a bottle of jam over it. That might be tasty. But I wouldn’t want to serve it to my family at Thanksgiving.

You are the Butter Queen, right?

Yeah, I have been called that. I do love butter. I don’t care what you’re fixin’, butter makes everything taste better.

I’m assuming your butter enthusiasm has nothing to do with the movie Last Tango in Paris.

I don’t think so. Do they eat a lot of butter in that film?

Well, they don’t eat it exactly.

What did they do with it?

[Long pause.] Uh… I don’t think I know how to explain it without embarrassing both of us.

Is it something dirty? [Laughs.]

You could say that, sure.

Does it have something to do with how your wife got pregnant?

Actually, no. You have the wrong … It’s a different, you know… It’s lower down on the … [Long pause.] Wow, this is amazing. You’ve actually turned the tables on me. I’m flummoxed!

Well honey, you’re the one who brought it up.

Here’s what I can tell you. Marlon Brando used butter in a slightly more intimate way than you do on your Food Network shows.

Ooooh. Well I will definitely check that out.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to awkwardly change the subject.

If you need to.

I think that poor interviewer has the vapors!

butter neptune and mermaid

Like buttah

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