When Good Fruitcakes Go Bad
I keep a pretty clean house.
I bath regularly.
So I wondered why there were so many little flies buzzing around me?
Up until a few weeks ago, I never had a problem with insects, save for the nightly attacks of mosquitoes (the bane of Parisian summers). So I was wondered why I had so many little visitors flitting about my kitchen.
Every year I make fruitcakes, and last year was no exception. I spend hours candying orange and grapefruit peel as well as making spicy, candied ginger, which I chop up into toothsome nuggets. I make a buttery batter packed full of brilliant-green Sicilian pistachios, and use my precious stash of rich, crunchy Macadamia nuts sent to me by friends in Hawaii.
Then batter gets divided into molds of various sizes and baked in anticipation of holiday gift-giving. (Note to future recipients: The size determines how much I feel indebted to you…so plan your gift-giving accordingly.)
Once-cooled, I soak the cakes with a heady pour of Cognac, then wrap them neatly in French linen, known as étamine. Then faithfully, each month, I brush the gauzy wrap with a fresh dose of Cognac, re-wrap them, then revisit them monthly to repeat the process.
Last week, I did my ritualistic unveiling of my lovely fruitcakes to give them their regular dose of Cognac.
As I pulled back the wrapping, something felt oddly unfamiliar, and an uneasy sense of dread spread over me. The cakes didn’t feel solid.
Nor did they even feel like cakes.
Well, words can’t really describe what I was feeling, so I’ll simply share…
Oh la vâche!, as we say.
This was perhaps the most horrible thing I’d seen in a long, long time.
Flies buzzed, hovered and swooped around the almost-unrecognizable bricks of cake, frothy mold seeped and fizzed from every pore, and little wriggly…well…since you may be eating while you read this, I’ll stop there, but you get the message (and hopefully share my pain.)
I’m certain le canicule, the heatwave of July, was responsible. It heated everything up, including my cakes, and turned them into a messy mayhem of mold and mouches (flies).
I made a beeline for the elevator to the garbage area on the ground floor of my building, praying the elevator wouldn’t stop to let someone else on. If it had, I don’t know how I would have explained what happened. Or the stink. Luckily I arrived tout seule, and with semi-regret, flung the whole she-bang in la poubelle, slammed down the lid, and beat a hasty retreat.