Dear Diary Didi,
Sorry, I couldn’t make an entry in the past couple of days. I was feeling quite ill... Let me tell you what happened.
The last Sunday of November was stir-up Sunday. This is a centuries-old annual tradition where home cooks ‘stir up’ their Christmas pudding and cakes. I remember the luscious fruit filled, alcohol-saturated plum cakes that were produced and savoured in the homes of our Christian school friends in Calcutta and Bangalore. The cakes, bursting with alcohol-soaked fruit, flavour and spices, were cut into moist slices of rapture, a single bite of which could transport you straight to heaven. They were a far cry from the cheap, dry-as-dust tutti-frutti cakes, flavoured with fake rum essence that masquerade as Christmas cakes these days.
My Christian friends’ mothers would soak their fruit at least one month in advance, and I, determined to make an authentic Christmas cake from scratch, resolved to do the same this year. In the week leading up to stir-up November, I took the essential step of procuring the perfect recipe from Google, which is easier said than done since the ever-eager Google throws up about a thousand recipes, all claiming to produce “the perfect X-mas cake”.
I was faced with several mouth-watering choices. Should I bake a gin and tea Christmas cake or a spiced orange Christmas cake, which was packed with figs, apricots, sultanas and Cointreau? Should I gather ingredients for a buttered rum Christmas cake, or should I go with a brandied fruit cake? Should I use red vermouth or a medium sherry? The main conundrum was the choice of the ideal alcohol. The fruit, eggs, butter, maida, etc. were common to every recipe.
I decided to get out all the alcohols and mix portions of fruit in them and then taste to judge the worthiest. I lined up a bottle of brandy, rum, Cointreau, gin and, for good measure, a bottle of Vodka. Equally dividing the fruit (a combination of raisins, dates, figs, black currants and cranberries), I half-filled five small cups with it, topping each with different alcohols. The blended aroma of various alcohols made the kitchen smell like a well-stocked bar.
I allowed the fruit to sit for 24 hours, soaking up their spirits. The fruit turned plump and juicy. Then came the litmus test. Which heap would make it to my cake? I started with a tablespoon of the rum-fruit! Goodness! It was delicious. Next came the brandy-fruit. Even better. The gin-fruit was next… comme ci comme ca.
I’d started feeling warm and happy. It must be all that healthy fruit I was eating. Cheers to health, I giggled chewing on the Vodka fruit. Lastly, the Cointreau-fruit! Heavenly! I was divided between the rum-fruit, brandy-fruit and Cointreau-fruit, so I had to taste them again to come up with a clear winner.
My family said that they found me snoring on the sofa in the evening. Just goes to prove that no matter what heath experts say, eating too much fruit is not good for health.
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