This may be a funny thing to say since I'm semi-famously raisin averse, but...I miss Golden Fruit. Don't worry, I'll explain.
To explain briefly: when I was little, my mom bought a snack cake filled with raisins. I have memories of her opening the cookie container while wheeling me around in the grocery store, giving me a piece which I feasted upon while sitting in the cart. Yes, she'd pay for it at the register, of course. I remember the sweet and slightly soft cookie exterior, which looked cracker-y but tasted like soft animal crackers, and the sweet filling. As a kid I didn't identify the filling as raisin because it was pureed and therefore different.
At this more advanced stage of my life (I'm 36; it's terminal, I have definitely been alive for a while), I don't know if I actually loved this little cookie thing, or if I just loved the ritual behind it, and the memory of being so taken care of.
Proustian memory aside, I recently got curious about this snack. I was like "do those things still exist?" so I began googling around, because I didn't quite remember the name of the treat. After a while, I uncovered something called a Garibaldi biscuit; the wikipedia photo (top) looked about right, but the name wasn't what I remembered. Happily, scanning that page I learned that:
"In the United States, the Sunshine Biscuit Company for many years made a popular version of the Garibaldi with raisins which it called "Golden Fruit". Sunshine was bought out by the Keebler Company which briefly expanded the line to include versions filled with other fruits. The entire Golden Fruit product line was discontinued when the Keebler company became a division of the Kellogg Company in 2001."
The plot thickens: the Garibaldi biscuit
So, as it turns out, the Garibaldi biscuit is described as "consists of currants squashed and baked between two thin oblongs of biscuit dough—a sort of currant sandwich". Definitely the same idea!
That's where things got interesting, though. I was curious about this Garibaldi biscuit that apparently was the precursor to my beloved Golden Fruit. Who was this Garibaldi?
OK, so here's a funny thing: the Garibaldi in question is Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian general who was quite pivotal in the nation's history.
Head scratch, head scratch. Why name a raisin biscuit after an Italian general? OK, so here's what I have determined.
First, you have to consider where the concept for the biscuit came from. It seems to me that it's a commercial adaptation of something called Eccles Cake. In spite of its name, the Eccles cake is more like a hand pie, featuring a raisin-y filling surrounded by a flaky crust, sometimes topped with sugar. It's sometimes called "Squashed Fly Cake" or "Fly Pie", which is due to the dark hue of the filling, which yes, I suppose you could say looks like hundreds of squashed and pureed flies, though personally I'm not totally appetized.
Eccles cake is named after the English town of the same name. Who invented the recipe is unknown, but a gentleman named James Birch, who owned a shop on what is now Church Street in Eccles, is generally accepted as being the first to sell the pastry commercially, as early as the 1790s. As this article reveals, it's likely that he picked up the recipe from an influential cookbook of the time, written by another local, Elizabeth Raffald.
Eccles isn't the only cake / pastry of its sort: similar treats include the Banbury cake, the Chorley cake (which is actually most similar to the Garibaldi biscuit) and the Blackburn cake.
The pastry apparently proved quite popular. By the early 1800s, they were being commercially produced and exported, which brought them to a greater audience. By the mid-1800s, larger companies had noticed the trend and came up with their own versions. The Garibaldi biscuit was one of them. It was first manufactured in the 1861 by the biscuit company Peek Freans.
Operating in partnership with Carr's (a biscuit company name you will still see), the biscuit gained a larger audience, even being exported to Australia. Eventually, it became known internationally and spawned similar treats, including my beloved Golden Fruit, which was manufactured by Sunshine. The line was expanded when Sunshine was acquired by Keebler, then eventually discontinued when Keebler became part of Kellogg. Whew! What a history!
Back to why the biscuit is named after Garibaldi. There are a few different theories I've pieced together:
1. Garibaldi was simply a BIG NAME around the time that the biscuits were first produced. He made a widely publicized visit to England in the 1850s, and it seems reasonable enough that brands might want to capitalize on his name (not unlike naming a food after a celebrity or important figure today).
2. There's one theory I came across online that during his campaign to unite Italy, Garibaldi's men were fed Eccles cake-like treats. This could account for the namesake, too; if I were a biscuit maker and this big famous general had a connection with this treat, I'd probably try to take advantage of that connection.
3. There's a dark (and quite frankly, dubious) theory that they are named Garibaldi biscuits because during military feats, Garibaldi often found himself without food to feed his troops, and would "bleed" horses for a source of nourishment, which attracted lots of flies. The "squashed fly" connection" could be connected to this. I like this as a story, but it really doesn't seem accurate.
Wow, what a story these little biscuits have!
Today, it's a bit harder to find these treats in the USA, but not impossible. You can find Garibaldi biscuits in some grocery stores with a well stocked International aisle (pick up some Bird's custard while you're there too, because that's always a good thing to have on hand) and also via the Vermont Country Store.
You can also make your own. This simple recipe has me intrigued; so does this one (which has good reviews) via King Arthur Flour, though personally I'd probably go lighter on the sugar topping, not to avoid sugar but for a texture more like I remember.