Q: Why did the explorers haul a fruitcake to the South Pole?
August 16, 2017 6:17 PM   Subscribe

 
And it's ...almost... still edible.

So, unchanged?
posted by leotrotsky at 6:34 PM on August 16, 2017 [25 favorites]


I'd be willing to bite it. One of the many interesting tidbits in Sarah Wheeler's Terra Incognita book was that most of the food people were eating at McMurdo was years past its expiration date. The low temperatures made it last.

Plus, I really like fruitcake.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:47 PM on August 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


I...like fruitcakes.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:49 PM on August 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


Commercial fruitcake at this point is like a meta joke, like airline food, which has been acknowledged to be so bad for so many years that it's no longer a humorous observation. And yet, like airline food, it continues to be made. (Unless you're on a domestic economy flight, in which case it has been replaced by the option to buy a can of Pringles for seven bucks.) It is, if nothing else, reliable. I once tried a Kendal's Mint Cake and nearly spit it out. I suppose the stuff didn't make it all the way to the top of Mount Everest by being delicious.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:52 PM on August 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


I couldn't find the previously in a quick search but there was a FPP about Scott's cache of scotch (24 cases I believe) that was found a few years ago. They returned most of it back to the historical site but 3 bottles were opened to be analyzed by the original manufacturer, and I believe they made a replica.

I think I commented then too that if I were anywhere along that chain of custody, I don't think I would've been able to resist the temptation to quietly decant a bottle and refill it with some Dewars or whatever.

I would definitely have tried this fruitcake too. Though probably harder to hide a giant cartoon-style bite mark...
posted by danny the boy at 6:52 PM on August 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


Hey don't knock fruitcake. I'd give anything for another slice of my grandma's fruitcake - made by soaking hand chopped dried fruit in brandy for months and carefully baking one at a time in her temperamental oven that could only fit one cake at a time. It was rich and boozy and delicious.
posted by peacheater at 6:56 PM on August 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


“It’s an ideal high-energy food for Antarctic conditions,” she said, “and is still a favorite item on modern-day trips to the ice.”

I'm going to use this line next time I have to defend my love of fruitcake.

But yeah, there are shitty dry commercial ones. They must be moist and boozy.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:59 PM on August 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


And it's ...almost... still edible.

Shouldn't that be "still…almost edible"?
posted by TedW at 7:11 PM on August 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


Yeah, fruitcake's awesome. There's even good store bought fruitcake.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:12 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I WOULD TOTALLY EAT THAT FUCKING FRUITCAKE
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:19 PM on August 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


In fact, if it goes up for auction, hand to God, I am going to buy it, make the AskMe post, and EAT THAT FUCKING FRUITCAKE.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:20 PM on August 16, 2017 [16 favorites]


That first photo of the fruitcake, captioned "The fruitcake found at Cape Adare, Victoria Land, East Antarctica, thought to be from Robert Falcon Scott’s Northern Party (1911)" suggests that, in its prime, that was one outstanding fruitcake. Even now, I'd be down for a bite.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:21 PM on August 16, 2017


We took a slack poll in our office of whether or not people would take a bite of the fruitcake or not.

We polled 120 people.
Yes - 74%
No - 26%
posted by Fizz at 7:32 PM on August 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


Homemade fruitcake is fantastic, and I would totally eat a 100-year-old homemade fruitcake, even if the butter has gone slightly off.

This cake isn't homemade.

We haven't had a proper FPP on respectable fruitcake, have we? Someone should rectify that. I probably couldn't get to it for a week or two, but we need one.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 7:32 PM on August 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: must be moist and boozy
posted by not_on_display at 7:36 PM on August 16, 2017 [15 favorites]


I've had some years-old well-tended homemade and continually re-boozed fruitcakes that were some of the most astonishing food things I've ever put in my mouth.

I think probably 90% of fruitcake is bullshit, and that Pee Wee is correct to build a wing of his playhouse out of those fruitcakes. The 10% that aren't bullshit... those beg to be experienced.
posted by hippybear at 8:43 PM on August 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think people who dislike fruitcake probably aren't soaking it in alcohol and then storing it with its own shotglass so it can keep drinking liquor to stay moist.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:02 PM on August 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


danny the boy: Shackleton's Whisky
posted by deadbilly at 9:39 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've never had fruitcake, but my first thought upon reading the article was to wonder if I was weird for wanting a bite.

My husband says yes.
posted by Night_owl at 9:42 PM on August 16, 2017


I am not sure if this falls under Discworld's Dwarven Battle bread. But I too would take some delicious, boozy fruitcake.
posted by jadepearl at 10:01 PM on August 16, 2017


Read Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series to discover alternative uses for fruitcake.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:07 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I want to know more about the "rather nice looking jams."

Also I wonder why the explorers didn't eat the fruitcake. Maybe they left it for later and never made it back to it?
posted by hazyjane at 10:16 PM on August 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Thanks deadbilly. Here's a NYTimes magazine article about tasting that whiskey which I enjoyed.
posted by danny the boy at 10:19 PM on August 16, 2017


"Also I wonder why the explorers didn't eat the fruitcake."

Well, it's... fruit cake. They probably had enough spare sled dogs and amputated frost bitten limbs to tie them over.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:30 PM on August 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


TIL: some people have a strong dislike for fruitcake.
posted by Mitheral at 10:35 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


They probably had enough spare sled dogs and amputated frost bitten limbs to tie them over.

Actually they had quite a varied diet. It wasn't all tinned pemmican. Here's Scott's diary entry for June 22 1911, describing their Midwinter Feast:
Beginning on seal soup, by common consent the best decoction that our cook produces, we went on to roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, fried potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Then followed a flaming plum-pudding and excellent mince pies, and thereafter a dainty savoury of anchovy and cod’s roe. A wondrous attractive meal even in so far as judged by our simple lights, but with its garnishments a positive feast, for withal the table was strewn with dishes of burnt almonds, crystallised fruits, chocolates and such toothsome kickshaws, whilst the unstinted supply of champagne which accompanied the courses was succeeded by a noble array of liqueur bottles from which choice could be made in the drinking of toasts.
There's even a photograph of the occasion. They all look rather glum.
posted by verstegan at 1:09 AM on August 17, 2017 [6 favorites]


I know quite a few people who either still do or have in the past worked for the British Antarctic Survey and they all have stories about eating old food. Because it's so cold and dry stuff doesn't spoil. Also Scott's (and other expeditions) caches turn up fairly often.

One guy, who is a respectable middle-aged geologist with enough amazing stories to not need to make anything up, claims to have eaten 75 year old chocolate. Said it was "a bit bland".

Everyone who volunteers to go South, especially those who stay for the winter, is in some way a bit crazy. I have no doubt people were queuing up to eat Scott's cake.
posted by auntie-matter at 3:01 AM on August 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'll eat it for $10. Lets have a whip around?
posted by jenjen23 at 3:38 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


Last time I did a multi day backcountry ski trip, one day we did a long day's skiing away and back to a hut, leaving most of our food supplies at camp. After about seven or so hours, we were cold and hungry and I thought we only had granola bars and water with us. Then my friend reached into his day pack and pulled out an entire fruitcake. He was carrying it around just in case. We didn't have a knife so we just passed the whole cake around and took giant bites. Best cake I've ever eaten.
posted by lollusc at 3:39 AM on August 17, 2017 [8 favorites]


Ever notice how often the words "fruitcake" and "why?" appear in the same sentence?
posted by tommasz at 5:40 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


I admittedly have a lot of hangups around whether I'm "allowed" to be American, but this apparent universal hatred of fruitcake is one of those things that makes me feel like my childhood bullies were right and I'm not allowed to be American. I mean, more cake for me at Christmas and birthdays, but it kind of wears on you--I genuinely think twice before talking about my cake preferences because it's just a cue for people to tell me how much they hate your family's foods.
posted by hoyland at 5:47 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


Nearly a decade ago, a coworker and I decided to try the Hostess Fruitcake. It was... a mistake.

However, I am greatly disappointed that there are no links to the kind of "feed the cake booze for 3 months minimum" fruitcake recipes because I would super like to make one.
posted by misskaz at 6:09 AM on August 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


I once tried a Kendal's Mint Cake and nearly spit it out

If you were expecting fruitcake, that would be understandable, as Kendal Mint Cake is sugar tablet and not cake at all.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 6:16 AM on August 17, 2017


I once attended a funeral in rural Central Texas and we spent the night at a B&B that was run by a Bulgarian family. (Dinner was delicious, similar to Turkish food.) The father was a baker had been brought over to the US on some special visa to work at the Corsicana fruitcake company. He said it was a rough job, working 7 days a week seasonally making thousands of cakes. The Corsicana fruitcakes are popular in Texas, and are pretty good for not being homemade. They are about 50% pecans, which helps.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:38 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


In fact, if it goes up for auction, hand to God, I am going to buy it, make the AskMe post, and EAT THAT FUCKING FRUITCAKE.

Make it a meetup!
posted by nubs at 7:57 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've made some damn fine fruitcake back in the day. I need to dig up the old recipe and bake one for Christmas this year.
posted by King Sky Prawn at 8:03 AM on August 17, 2017


However, I am greatly disappointed that there are no links to the kind of "feed the cake booze for 3 months minimum" fruitcake recipes because I would super like to make one

If I remember, I'll post one tonight or tomorrow. I have a fruitcake recipe I've been making for the last decade or so. I make it in September so it has a nice long soak. The recipe I use calls for brandy and Madeira, unlike the one my mother used to make, which used rum. I also use only organic dried fruits, and three kinds of nuts. It's pretty great.
posted by suelac at 8:21 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


TIL: some people have a strong dislike for fruitcake.

Depends on how much cilantro is in't.

I once tried a Kendal's Mint Cake and nearly spit it out

If you were expecting fruitcake, that would be understandable, as Kendal Mint Cake is sugar tablet and not cake at all.


Also a deeply stupid contestant for Footlights College on University Challenge.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2017


If you were expecting fruitcake, that would be understandable, as Kendal Mint Cake is sugar tablet and not cake at all.

No, I was expecting a kind of York's Peppermint Patty. What I tasted was so bad that I wonder if there wasn't something wrong with it. I'd found it in a camping supply store in the US, where it might have gone for years neglected next to the freeze-dried chili.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:57 AM on August 17, 2017


There's an ask.me on fruitcake and you should go check it out, lots of recipes and a great Australian story. I like fruitcake. I even like the fruitcake at the grocery store - slice it thin, spread on a little butter. Homemade fruitcake is really tasty, and marinated in brandy or whisky, is a moist sticky dessert that is also a cocktail.

This year, we should have a fruitcake option for quonsmas.
posted by theora55 at 9:10 AM on August 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


My New Year's resolution for 2018, should I make it that far, will be to work "toothsome kickshaws" into more conversations.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:14 AM on August 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


There are only two ways to make a fruitcake bad: use crappy candied fruit or don't let it soak up enough booze. Unfortunately most fruitcakes do both. Decent fruit changes everything.
posted by penduluum at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2017


The only thing more stale than a 106 year old fruitcake is literally any joke about fruitcake. What is this, a comedy act at the Sands in 1965?
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:42 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: EAT THAT FUCKING FRUITCAKE
posted by loquacious at 12:05 PM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


I also eat fruitcake. I mean, I don't go out of my way to buy it or anything but sometimes it ends up in front of me and I eat it. I also eat mincemeat cookies and pies. I even like brown bread in a can. With raisins. I think good pemmican is delicious, too, and I've been known to gnaw on hard tack biscuits.

Somewhere in this Venn diagram is some kind of axis that essentially reads "incredibly heavy and calorie dense cold weather survival foods" and I'm ok with that.

Seriously, ever try Datrex Blue rations? It's like you mashed up bags of Mother's assorted cookie crumbs with coconut flakes and butter into small bricks, where one brick = about a bag of cookies.
posted by loquacious at 12:14 PM on August 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


Steve1989 would eat it.

He would.
posted by Samizdata at 1:50 PM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


For confused Europeans reading this thread: prohibition led to the US changing its traditional fruitcake recipe to contain no rum or whisky or any other spirits. This is why they think of it as an inedible hunk of over-preserved jellied currants. It's exactly as bad as all the terrible jokes make it out to be.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:58 PM on August 17, 2017 [7 favorites]


It was rich and boozy and delicious.

The best fruitcake is homemade with luscious fruit and tons of booze. In a pinch, you can substitute a good store-bought fruitcake as long as there are metric-butt-tons of booze and lots of time to soak it.


"Also I wonder why the explorers didn't eat the fruitcake."
They probably had enough spare sled dogs and amputated frost bitten limbs to tie them over.

Some people just prefer mincemeat pie, I guess.


... Scott's diary entry for June 22 1911, describing their Midwinter Feast...
There's even a photograph of the occasion. They all look rather glum.


Of course they do. There's no fruitcake on the table!


Ever notice how often the words "fruitcake" and "why?" appear in the same sentence?
Yes!

Why isn't there more booze on this fruitcake?
Why is there no more fruitcake left?
Why do we only have fruitcake at Christmas?
posted by BlueHorse at 2:42 PM on August 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


eh, I'll eat anything if I'm high. One night many years ago, I put a schmeer of peanut butter on a slice of fruitcake, and popped it in the toaster oven. It was the best food ever, and the memory has lasted.
posted by not_on_display at 10:14 PM on August 17, 2017


I put a schmeer of peanut butter on a slice of fruitcake

I've never thought of doing that, but that's pretty brilliant. I'm thinking little peanut butter sandwiches made from slices of fruitcake could be something I totally get into.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:48 AM on August 18, 2017


I've been making the Alton Brown Free Range Fruitcake (which is also recommended by several others in the Ask linked above) for a few years now. My mother is a fruitcake aficionado and rates this one very highly, although she also loves the fruitcakes from Assumption Abbey.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:49 AM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


I wanted to begin a HOLIDAY TRADITION for our family when I was still married. The idea is to get a disgusting looking fruitcake in a clear package and give it as a gag gift during Christmas to a person who has 'disappointed' you. The next year that person gifts it to another family member who has disappointed them. 40 years on this same fruitcake is floating around in the family, and everyone is wondering who got the fruitcake this year. When I mentioned this idea to my ex, she not only shot me down but made it clear that I was not to bring up this idea when we did meet the family for dinner. I still think this was the tipping point in my marriage when she realized she was married to someone who is weird.

I still think this is a wonderful idea. Seeing this story, I get a feeling that I am not the only one.
posted by indianbadger1 at 12:41 PM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


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