One great disappointment I have felt recently is the fact that Port Gamble's Country Christmas celebration will no longer showcase Washington's only fruitcake contest. And when I say fruitcake contest, I do not mean fruitcake-throwing contest like the ones you will find at some cretinous activities during the holidays. They eliminated the contest from the celebration the year I had decided to enter my Texas Orange Slice Cake, with accompanying story of its origin. That was part of the judging-the story behind the cake. Part of the appeal to me, of course, is the misguided bad reputation that fruitcake has and it was my intention to help facilitate the reversal of that stigma, in whatever small venue with which I was presented. In this day and age, winning a fruitcake contest would be neither glamorous nor brag-worthy. Precisely the reason I wanted to enter and win!
Port Gamble, WA is an historic mill town situated on the shores of Hood Canal on the Olympic Peninsula. It's a nostalgic little acreage showcasing turn-of-the-century buildings filled with shops and New England style houses on maple and elm tree-lined streets. They host several attractive events throughout the year, such as a paranormal conference, dinner theater performances, and the aforementioned Country Christmas sans fruitcake contest. (Now they have only one only special thing that no one else in Washington has and that is fireworks at Christmas.) If I lived closer, I would probably go to the theater to see "Clue The Musical."
Here's how I was planning to enjoy an old-timey, country feel, seaside ambient Christmas revelry fruitcake contest:
Earlier in the year my family had a reunion in the village of Ruidoso, NM in the Lincoln National Forest Sierra Blanca Mountain Range. I couldn't breathe very well at 7,000 feet, being used to living at sea level for so long. I'm just putting that out there for no special reason or tie-in to the story. I had mentioned to my mother a while before that I wished I had some New Mexico pecans to put in my cake that I didn't know at the time I was not going to even make.
New Mexico is famous for her pecans, arguably the best pecans nation-wide!
I was going to try to buy some when I was in NM for the reunion, but my mother's neighbor had a load of windfall pecans in her back yard that she would gladly give to me. I was driving with my brother and sister-in-law, Katy and Desmond and all of our "stuffs" in one vehicle. Were you counting? That's five people. With many stuffs. And an extra load of pecans...big bags of pecans. To me, they were worth it.
On the border between New Mexico and Colorado, in a town called Cortez, is Cortez Flour mill, where they mill Bluebird flour, reportedly the only flour you should use when making Navajo Fry Bread, if you care at all about being authentic. I don't know about being authentic, but I do know that I have won several bread baking prizes at the fair when using that flour. Of course, I needed that for my fruitcake as well.
And then we spent some time in Utah, where I continued filling my fruitcake coffers, this time with Montmorency dried cherries from Woodyatt Cherry Orchards in Willard. Katy and I both have won fair prizes with out pies made from these cherries.
Living in Washington, I found some local representative ingredients from Simply The Best Northwest Dried Foods. Using fruits grown in the Omak region of Washington and a wood-fueled dehydrator, without adding anything else, they had just the ticket to round out my ingredient list. (The orange slice candy could actually come from anywhere. I know the cake is named for this ingredient, but come on...it's just jellied sugar!) Something from five states I've lived in, if you include the name of the cake.
How could my fruitcake not take the prize at Port Gamble?! I mean...well, if there was going to be a fruitcake baking story-telling contest in Port Gamble, WA., I definitely had a chance!
We got back from the reunion trip in April of that year and I still had several months ahead of believing in fruitcake.
To be continued...