On the ninth day of Christmas, a true monk gave to me...
Written: Dec 22, 2002 (Updated Dec 22, 2002)
In the early days of the web, content was posted by (and for) a small, tech-savvy segment of the population. As the internet has grown and more people have gotten online, that's changed. You can renew your license on the web now, instead of waiting in line at the DMV. You can pay your electric bill with a single click of your mouse. You can track down the one plate you need to finish your set of pumpkin Fiesta plates that was discontinued in 1974. As the internet weaves itself more intricately into our daily lives, everyone is getting online. Everyone. This leads to the sometimes frustrating, often ludicrous, but always sort of earnest and cute online anachronism.
Your grandmother is online playing Java Bingo.
The Amish won't use a desk lamp, but they have their own domain.
I've swiped the Vatican's spiffy parchment background image to use with my eBay auctions.
And the Fathers of Holy Cross Abbey Monastery sell their sinful, brandy-laced fruitcakes on the web at
I didn't go looking for a fruitcake. I didn't go looking for Monks either, for that matter.
A couple of years ago, I turned on the Food Network to get my daily fix of Mario Batali (not Emeril, not ever) and stumbled on to a show called Food Finds instead. Best I could tell, I was watching some rural folk make potato chips. It was vacuous, and I was mesmerized. When the potato chip segment ended, the Monks sauntered on to my screen and into my life. As I watched the robed ones pray, sift, mix, stir, and bake, I wondered how a thousand year old order of recluses could reconcile their austere lifestyle and religious devotion with peddling baked goods on the internet. From their website:
Manual labor is characteristic of Cistercian life, fulfilling the precept of
the Rule of Saint Benedict that "then are they truly monks, when they live by
the labor of their hands as did our fathers and the apostles". In order not to
be a burden on the generosity of others we labor to realize our own financial
support like the vast majority of persons who shoulder difficult conditions to
earn a living. For the monks of Holy Cross Abbey this work includes care of the
land and buildings, and the service of the community and our guests,
in addition to the operation of the Monastery Bakery, our chief means of support.
Let's face it-- fruitcake has image problems. It's the dessert that nobody likes, and it wasn't exactly at the top of my list of Christmas-Must-Haves. It's the cake that, along with cockroaches, would survive the nuclear apocalypse or asteroid impact that would kill the rest of us. It's a sticky pile of petrified fruit that's glommed together with flour and Elmer's glue, and it will never have the cachet of tiramisu. It's a low rent, Middle American, unsexy, Better Homes and Gardens dessert, and I'm most definitely not the low rent, Middle American, unsexy, Better Homes and Gardens dessert type.
I ordered two.
I'm a Jewish hybrid by birth and an atheist by choice, but I tend toward the sacred at Christmastime, and there was something very charming about those Monks. Their web site is as austere as their lifestyle, and therefore very easy to navigate. The only graphic is a "Monastery Fruitcake" banner, and there are five pages, all linked from the main page.
Monastery Fruitcake a brief description of the cake and a list of ingredients. If you're big into ingredients, you can go straight to that page by pointing your browser to
Order a Monastery Fruitcake offers an explanation of the cost and shipping options, and a link to the secure order form.
A Word From The Fathers offers non-fruitcake related words of inspiration, and a plug for the Order's religious publications.
Prayer Request is an interesting concept. There are two fields on the whole page-- one for your name, and the other to type your prayer request. You submit your form by clicking the "Submit Prayer Request" button, which e-mails the page to the Monks, who will pray for you. This has definite time-saving potential for those who can't make it to church, but can find time to dash off a quick prayer request while answering e-mails.
Monastic Interest offers information for those wanting to join the Holy Cross Abbey.
Ordering a fruitcake is very simple. The form asks for your name and address, how many fruitcakes you want, when you want them, and where you want them shipped. You can send fruitcakes to as many different addresses as you want. Consider this carefully, though. Do you really want to be that person? Eating a fruitcake is one thing. Sending fruitcake to friends is entirely different.
The fruitcake is $25, including shipping. Shipping can take a couple of weeks, but if you're in a hurry, you can e-mail the Monastery for information about expedited shipping options, including overnight delivery. I've ordered my fruitcakes in November for the past two years, so getting them on time has never been a problem. The Monastery will send fruitcakes anywhere in the world for an extra $5 per cake, which buys fast airmail to Canada, or slow, llama-back deliveries elsewhere. But wait-- there's more! If you order two cakes at the same time, you can get a free Monastery Fruitcake Mouse Pad. Visa and Mastercard only, no COD. The fruitcake also comes with an impressive guarantee:
The Monks of Holy Cross Abbey unconditionally guarantee that their fruitcake is the best you'll ever eat or cheerfully refund your money.
The fruitcake arrived in a simple box with minimal packaging. Inside, there's a gift-worthy Monastery logo tin featuring a church bell and a contemplative monk. When you open the tin for the first time, you'll be surprised by what you see. And by what you smell. This is a dark, dense, delightful creation studded with giant pecans and doused with brandy. It's surprisingly moist and rich, and none of the old fruitcake jokes apply. The mark of a great dessert is when the adults in your family love it and the children hate it. That means that it has a complex, interesting flavor, and it's not cloyingly sweet. Despite our initial skepticism, the adults in my family all gave this fruitcake very high marks, and the kids cringed.
True to their promise, the Monks of Holy Cross Abbey made the best fruitcake I've ever eaten. Is fruitcake sexy? No. It may be 80 proof and come in a lovely, decorative tin, but this is still fruitcake. And it's a fairly expensive fruitcake, too. Don't buy this to win friends or influence people. Buy it because fruitcake is a Christmas tradition, this one tastes great, and the Monks are pretty cool.
And you'll get a really nice buzz off it, too.
This is my entry for Jackai's 12 Days of Xmas Write Off. Please see Jack's profile page (http://www.epinions.com/user-jackai) for a list of participants, and advice on achieving a nice camel toe look in time for the holidays. Our host will be submitting his review tomorrow, 12/23, for the Tenth Day, followed by lynus on 12/24 and katybrighteyes on 12/25. Happy Holidays!