If your aunt's fruitcake isn't your favorite festive food, perhaps you should try letting a brother make it. No, not your sibling, but one of the monks at the handful of Trappist abbeys in America that specialize in the sweet, seasonal item. As NPR's The Salt reports, cottage industries are the key to keeping many of these solitary, silent monastic orders financially afloat. One abbey in Missouri was making concrete blocks before switching to baking the holiday cakes, and the joke isn't lost on Father Cyprian Harrison who notes "we only had to change the recipe a little."
Specializing in a couple of in-demand but limited supply products provides daily productive work while also keeping the abbeys' values in check. In Oregon, Missouri and Kentucky you can find small batch (if you consider 90,000 lbs. of fruitcake small) producers donning their robes and other vestments in a strictly machinery-free operation. And even though customers seem to love the finished product, scaling the business isn't the point. "We're not like a regular business with a goal to keep growing production," Harrison tells The Salt. "Even if we wanted to, we don't have the monk power to make that many cakes!" Read the entire piece on monk-made goods over on NPR.org.