Food & Drink

Taste This

Taste This by Greg Cox

The F word: an utterance so offensive to many that it's still verboten in polite conversation, even in these cynical times. Certainly, any writer -- especially a food writer, and especially during the holiday season -- who uses the word risks a severe loss in credibility. But I can't help it. The fruitcake I just finished eating is so good, I have to tell you about it.

That's right, I'm talking about fruitcake, the F word of the culinary world. You either love it or hate it, but so many people hate fruitcake that it has famously become the butt of jokes about doorstops and gifts that are "regifted" ad infinitum.

I'm willing to bet that one bite of the fruitcake I just ate would stop the snickering among fruitcake detractors and replace it with a big, satisfied grin. That's because it doesn't taste anything like what most of us think of as fruitcake. For one thing, Southern Supreme Old-Fashioned Nutty Fruitcake doesn't contain any of the candied citron that is bitter enough to be off-putting to many palates. And what fruit there is (dates, raisins, candied pineapple and cherries) is balanced by an extravagance of mammoth pecans and English walnuts. The result is a dense, moist cake with a flavor that has as much in common with pecan pie as it does with fruitcake.

Adding to its appeal is the fact that the fruitcake is made by a family-run bakery in the farmland of southwestern Chatham County. The Scott family started Southern Supreme in 1985, making small batches in a converted one-car garage. "We just wanted to make a little extra Christmas money," says Randy Scott, one of eight family members who own and operate the business.

The operation has expanded into a dedicated building with four kitchens and a retail sales room. The family expects to sell more than 220,000 pounds of fruitcake this year, as well as an assortment of chocolates, candies, condiments and gift baskets. For all its growth, Southern Supreme remains a small family-run business at heart.

"We make everything ourselves right here," Scott proudly notes. They don't cut corners when it comes to ingredients, either, as I can happily attest. So if you're shy about using the F word, you can assuage your guilty conscience with the knowledge that you're buying local. What's more, you're supporting a family that was producing artisanal food long before "artisanal" became a buzzword.