Second Helpings


Fruitcake Fixation

    I half expected to see a bevy of dewy Greek goddesses in floating white tunics dancing barefoot. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve been to the Sunol Water Temple: a gracious structure with soaring pillars and a Delphi vibe. And indeed, if “oracle” equates with wisdom, it’s had its say at Sunol Water Temple Agricultural Park, the water temple’s location.
    Remarkably this stretch of the Alameda Watershed east of Oakland, once home to walnut groves, was left untended for years. Now, it supports a number of small farmers. It’s where West Oakland’s People’s Grocery plants and harvests crops with the help of inner city kids. And where a group of first-generation Mien farmers from Oakland’s East Bay Asian Youth Center grow traditional crops.
    “There’ll be coffee and breakfast snacks,” I was told when invited to an open day. The spread of fruit, muffins and banana bread, served outdoors on a gently warm day, cried: “Eat me; I’m organic.” No surprise, given that this project is about sustainable agriculture. I took a nibble of something I didn’t recognize that looked like a fruit bar but was sliced like a cake and had clearly been baked. I took another nibble. And then a chunk.
    Hmmm. Clearly it was fruitcake. But not my mother’s fruitcake, crammed with nuts and cherries and doused in brandy. This was fresh and chewy with plump dried apricots and—cranberries?
    I tracked down its creator, Veronica Eberstein, co-chef at Sunol Jazz Café. She calls it “Veronica’s fruit and nut bar” and created it as a healthy dessert for her dad. There’s dried mango, apricot and cranberry, a little flour, brown sugar and egg. At the café it’s $1.75 for a slice; $10 for a complete square cake; and if your inner oracle doesn’t want to drive to Sunol, call and ask about mail order.
    Sunol Jazz Café, 11986 Main St., Sunol; (925) 862-2800; 7:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Mon.–Thu., 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.,; 8 a.m.– 3 p.m Sun.,

—Wanda Hennig

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