What a Fruitcake!

I was reading a “Dear Abby” column recently about a woman who was worried about how to tell her new boss she did not want to exchange Christmas gifts with him.  Abby advised her not to be presumptuous and bring up the topic of gift exchanges, but to be prepared with a small gift for the boss just in case he happened to gift her.  Then, she suggested, of all things, a fruitcake!

Johnny Carson once said, “The worst Christmas gift is a fruitcake . . . There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other year after year.” Fruitcake is probably the most reviled food in the Christmas tradition. So, seriously, a fruitcake for someone you want to continue working for?  Sure, the boss can always regift it, but only to someone he doesn’t like.  Or he can use it as a doorstop or a paper weight.  But does anyone ever eat it?

Personally, I can’t think of anything less appetizing than the dry, heavy as a rock, pock-marked, bursting with glow-in-the-dark red and green glace’ cherries (are they even real fruit?) fruitcake.  Can fruitcake even be classified as a cake? And who wants to eat something that can be preserved for over two hundred years without going bad? Then again, how would one know if it went bad?  Somehow, this brings to mind the preserved mummies in Egypt,  not a pleasant association.

Of course there are always a few people who defend fruitcakes and tell the rest of us who know better that the fruitcakes which are mass produced and sold during the holidays are not what a real fruitcake is supposed to be.  Said people would try to make us believe there really is such a thing as a “tasty” fruitcake.  To that end, they insist we sample “their” homemade fruitcake, which they assure us is delicious.  Yeah, I’ve been snookered too many times into tasting fruitcakes which are touted to be good.  It’s difficult not to be rude when someone is standing over me, expectantly, waiting for me to declare that, by golly, there is such a thing as a yummy fruitcake and thank you for bringing it to my attention with this dry, nasty, too sweet, weirdly spicy bite of yuck I’m trying to choke down with a smile.  And, in all honesty, why should I care about being converted into a fruitcake lover when there is a veritable cornucopia of delectable Christmas baked goods available this time of year? Too many goodies, too little stomach.  As it is, I must pick and choose among delicious homemade cookies, fudge, candy, and real, honest-to-goodness cakes.  And as long as I’m feeling guilty about consuming excess calories and sugar, I at least want the guilty pleasure of, “but it was so worth it!”

Do you know there is actually a small town in Georgia known as the “fruitcake capital of the world?”  Claxton, Georgia, which shares this dubious honor with Corsicana, Texas, used to offer free tours of their bakery, but had to discontinue because of insurance concerns.  It makes me wonder specifically what those “concerns” were.  I won’t even speculate, as it takes my mind over to the dark side.  But I have to wonder why any town would want to be known as the “fruitcake capital of the world?”  It seems to me they would want to keep this quiet.  Yet, according to Roadside America.com the Claxton Fruit Cake was the only fruit cake exhibited at the New York World’s Fair in 1964-65.  I imagine the fruit cake is still there, providing the cornerstone in some brick and mortar building.

Now just in case someone is reading this blog who feels the need to prove I am wrong about fruitcake, please keep your “special” fruitcake all for yourself.  I’ll take your word for it if I don’t have to taste it.  Meanwhile, pass the fudge.

 

WOULD YOU LIKE A CHERRY ON TOP?

I love grapefruit—especially if someone else fixes it for me so I don’t have to spend time dissecting out all the little sections.  And especially if it is covered with grenadine and topped with a maraschino cherry.  So this morning, in honor of my birthday week, my sweet husband prepared a grapefruit for me, garnished with not one, but five maraschino cherries.  I’m not generally one to question if someone else goes to the trouble of fixing something for me, but five cherries seemed a bit much, until I looked at his grapefruit and saw he had six.

“Do you think you have enough cherries?” I asked him.

“I like cherries,” he replied.  “And when I was a kid my mother only put one cherry on our grapefruit.”

This got me thinking about all the other ways he was deprived as a child.  There were certain rules in his family which sometimes seemed a bit odd to me, but nevertheless were gospel where his family dynamics were concerned.

In his family, they always came home from church and had a big Sunday breakfast with bacon, eggs, grits, and biscuits.  But they were only allowed two pieces of bacon apiece.  Now to me, this wouldn’t have been a big deal, as I can take or leave bacon.  However, this was apparently a major, ingrained condition in his family, to the point that to this day whenever any of his family is present at a breakfast, they inevitably ask, “How many pieces of bacon can we have?”  If told they can have all they want, it is like they hit the jackpot.

Not only was the bacon strictly rationed, but it had to be cooked using a particular fork.  I once made the mistake at his parents’ house of attempting to turn the bacon using a different fork and was immediately informed of the serious faux pas I had committed as “The Bacon Fork” was thrust into my hand.  “The Bacon Fork” was not some specialized kitchen implement out of a Martha Stewart catalog. It was a plain old two pronged fork with a broken wooden handle.  Yes, a broken wooden handle.  “The Bacon Fork” became quite the coveted Fannon family heirloom when my husband’s parents passed away.  I’m not sure which of his siblings absconded with it.  I only know it didn’t come to us. Which is probably why we seldom have bacon.

The bacon wasn’t the only food which was rationed.  Growing up, my husband was only allotted one bowl of the “good” cereal for breakfast.  If he was still hungry he had to eat generic corn flakes. And I’m pretty sure he and his siblings only carried generic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  No extra crunchy Jiff for them.

Now in his parents’ defense, they did have five kids to feed and money was tight.  Plus they were products of the Great Depression, which explained why they reused baggies and Styrofoam cups.  But I sometimes get tickled when my husband relates some of the food deprivations he suffered as a child.

I guess my observation of the number of cherries my husband had put on his grapefruit must have touched a sore nerve or triggered a painful memory.  Immediately after relaying the sad tale of only having one maraschino cherry on his grapefruit as a child, he informed me, “Besides, I’m almost sixty-five years old!  I can have as many cherries on my grapefruit as I want!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that when I was child, I didn’t get any cherries on my grapefruit.

 

 

DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL!

Last week my husband and I had to go to the base for a couple of errands.  The first was to pick up medication at the pharmacy.  Because the line at the drive-through was so long, we decided to go in.  There were only three people waiting in line. Sweet!  This should go fairly quickly, which was good because we had an appointment to get new ID cards in just a few minutes.  Then we realized the one person who was serving both the drive-through and the walk in clients was apparently having to stuff powder into capsules for the guy who stood at the walk-in window for twenty-five minutes.  (Just kidding—I didn’t actually see him stuffing powder into capsules, I just assumed that must be what was taking so long.)  Now I’m not complaining, mind you, because anytime I can get something for free, I’m a happy camper, even if I am cutting it close for an appointment.  But waiting in a line of three people for 30 minutes is not what set my nerves on edge.  Nope, it was the television set mounted on the wall (which absolutely no one was watching) blaring HGTV into the lobby.

In the first place, I totally don’t understand why everywhere we go there must be a booming television set “entertaining” us while we wait.  Second, if there is some law somewhere which says the blaring television set is mandatory in places where people have to wait, could it pleased be tuned to something not so annoying?  I mean, seriously, is there anything more boring than watching people walk through a disgusting building which should be condemned and ruminate about how they’re going to fix it up?  Do I want to hear their back and forth inane banter?  No.  Do I want to watch them peel soiled, threadbare carpet off yellowed linoleum?  No.  Do I need to see the antiquated rust stained bathroom fixtures and imagine the nasty black mold lurking behind the walls?  No.  Are there really people who enjoy watching this? No.  Okay, I guess on that last question, it has to be “yes” since this channel is still on the air.  But for me, my definition of hell is to spend an eternity where I can’t escape from HGTV. If I weren’t already dead I would kill myself.

Finally the dude waiting at the window got his individually stuffed capsules and the line moved quickly.  We were out of there!  Yes!  We hurried across base to the office where ID cards are issued, signed in, sat down, and were treated to . . . you guessed it, HGTV blasting from the TV mounted to the wall in front of us.

“Oh my gosh,” I said to my husband, “can’t they at least turn it to the news, or something?”

“No, the news might offend somebody,” he answered, a trace of sarcasm in his voice.

“Well, I’m offended by mindless drivel!  How come nobody worries about offending me, hmmm?”

He didn’t answer.

As I sat there, trying to block out the incessant ridiculous chatter, I was reminded of the time I was waiting to drive someone home from the dental clinic after wisdom tooth extraction.  Again, HGTV.  I put up with it for as long as I could.  There was one other person in the waiting room and the remote was sitting within my reach.

“Are you watching this?” I asked. I’m always polite.  Perhaps the guy was enthralled, although he appeared to be more enthralled with his phone.

He shook his head.

“Do you mind if I turn it off?”

“No, go ahead.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, I snatched up that remote and banished the stupid show into the abyss of insanity where it belonged.

It was mercifully quiet. For five whole minutes.  Then a staff member walked by, noticed the TV was off, picked up the remote, and released HGTV from its abyss, where we were once again a captive audience to mind-numbing annoyance.

I remember when I was little, my pediatrician had a fish tank to entertain patients while they waited.  It was quiet, peaceful, relaxing, and mesmerizing, watching the colorful fish swimming back and forth, while the air filter made comforting bubbling noises. No loud talking heads blared from anywhere in the office.  Perhaps I could suggest to HGTV they do a featured series on refurbishing fish tanks.  Underwater.

 

 

 

That’s twenty-five cents off!

I am a coupon queen.  If I can save ten cents off something, I am ecstatic.  While I don’t go to the extreme of some people who scour the internet and spend hours downloading and grouping coupons and planning their shopping trips accordingly, I do take advantage of the coupons I get.  To this end, I know what I have when I go to the commissary and choose many of my purchases based on coupons, making sure I have exactly what is specified.  Which is why, the other day, when I came up against the “Coupon Nazi” checker, my patience became sorely tested.

“This coupon says for TWO Sargento cheese snacks.  Did you buy TWO?” the checker asks in a snarky voice, indicating I may have tried to sneak that $0.75 off past her.

“Yes, I did,” I inform her.

She doesn’t believe me and has to paw through all $250.00 worth of groceries she has already rung up to verify I am not lying.

“This coupon is for All Laundry Detergent,” she says, shoving the coupon back at me.  “You didn’t buy All Laundry Detergent.”

“It says for All Laundry Detergent OR Snuggle Fabric Softener,”  I say, putting my thumb on the fine print and shoving it back at her.

The baggers are pointing to the liquid fabric softener at the end of the counter.

“I only see one.  Did you buy TWO?” she asks.

“Yes, the other is right here.”  I show her the box of dryer sheets she has yet to ring up.

“Did you buy TWO Mueller’s pastas?”

“Yes I did,” I answer.  “I bought noodles and macaroni.”

She makes the baggers produce the already bagged noodles.  They have to unpack and repack three bags.

“Where’s the other one?”

I pick up the box of macaroni she hasn’t scanned yet and wave it in her face.

“This coupon is for the battery powered Oral B toothbrush,” she states.

“I bought the battery powered toothbrush,” I tell her.

“Are you sure?”

I am starting to get annoyed.  Do I look stupid enough not to be able to distinguish a regular toothbrush from a battery powered one?  Or do I look that unscrupulous as to attempt to pass off a coupon for a simple manual toothbrush instead of a battery powered one?  But this coupon is for $5.00 off.  I am not backing down.

“Yes, I’m sure.  The coupon was hanging right in front of the battery powered toothbrushes.”

My husband has just belatedly picked up on the exchange.  “This is for a battery powered toothbrush,” he says, unhelpfully.

Now I have to fight TWO of them.  I turn around and fix him with a withering glare.  “I KNOW!  I BOUGHT a battery powered toothbrush!  My old one won’t turn on anymore!” I say through clenched teeth.

“Oh, okay,” he replies, giving me a wounded look.

The Coupon Nazi finally concedes and finishes ringing us up.  I have saved almost $26.00 in coupons.  I am victorious, even if it took a fight. There are some battles worth fighting, as this is enough to cover the service charges and the baggers’ tip. The woman clearly didn’t know who she was messing with.

 

 

 

HOLD YOUR NOSE

I was cleaning out the refrigerator the other day and came upon something that had been pushed to the back.  I had no idea what it was so I opened the lid and took a whiff to see if I could identify what the contents had been in their previous life. Big mistake!  When my eyes quit watering I noticed my husband had wandered into the kitchen.  As the hairs in my nose were singed and my olfactory cells had been completely overloaded, I held the container out to him.

“Here, smell this and tell me what it is,” I said, shoving the revolting noxious containing Tupperware wannabe under his nose.

He took a cautious sniff and backed away, gagging.  “Ugh!  Why would you want me to smell that?”  He gave me a look as if I was deliberately trying to poison him with lethal gases.

At his question, I had to stop and think.  Why did I make him smell that?  To be perfectly honest, I don’t know.  It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. Come to think of it, how many times do people do this?  They smell something disgusting and immediately everyone in the vicinity has to verify that the stench is, indeed, nauseating.  Do we do this to affirm that we are not olfactorally impaired?  It just seems to be one of those behaviors everyone does—sort of along the lines  of, “taste this.”

Not only do we have to share foul smelling substances with our friends and loved ones, we have to share rotten tastes, also.  Don’t tell me you have never opened a questionable leftover container in the refrigerator and asked your significant other to taste it.  Usually, although not always, I have already ascertained it is no longer fit for human consumption, but I just want that warm fuzzy of someone else confirming what I already know.

“It looks like a science project,” my husband says.  “I don’t need to taste it to know it’s bad.”

“The mold is just penicillin,” I assure him.  “It will kill whatever bacteria are in the food.”

“Just throw it out.”

“But I really hate to waste food.  If I could only identify what it is, I could tell how long ago we had this for dinner.”  I was raised by parents who lived through the Depression, after all, and wasting food was a mortal sin.  This principle has been ingrained into my DNA.

“Is it really worth getting ptomaine poisoning? Besides, there’s not enough to keep.  Just throw it out.”

“Oh, all right,” I reluctantly agree.  I take the container to the garbage can to scrape out the offensive former food.  Then it occurs to me I will probably never get the stain and odor out of the plastic tub it is decomposing in.

So I throw caution to the wind and dump it—container and all.  After all, I can always get another leftover container just as soon as I use up the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter—provided it doesn’t decompose first.

DON’T TOUCH THAT CLOCK!

Last night was the dreaded time change.  On one hand, it’s nice to have that extra hour of sleep, even knowing I’ll have to give it back come spring.  But that’s okay.  I might not make it until spring and then I’ll have that net gain of an hour’s sleep. However, it’s not the hour gained or lost which bugs me the most.  It’s the darkness that falls at 4:30.

My body is simply not made for darkness that early in the day.  When the sun goes down, so does my body.  During the week, I look out the window at work at the blackness and think, “It’s really late!  It’s past my bedtime!”  I’m barely able to drive home with my body in sleep mode.  Once home,  making dinner and cleaning up the kitchen requires a Herculean effort.  (Of course this always requires a Herculean effort for me, but it is magnified by the nightfall.)  To think about accomplishing any other tasks, such as checking emails, helping Darion with homework, writing anything that doesn’t sound like it was done with a brain which was half-asleep (no snarky comments, please), or doing household chores is totally out of the question.  All I want to do is curl up on the sofa and watch mindless TV—which is often a challenge because even with 100 channels, there still isn’t anything I want to watch.  I’ve pretty much seen all the 80’s reruns multiple times and haven’t sunk low enough for “My 600 pound life” or “The Real Housewives of Somewhere.”  I guess someone must watch these shows since there seem to be an abundance of them, but even my mindless TV watching has some standards.

I know I have officially hit “old” because just the thought of going out at night is repugnant to me.  (Yes, I know I officially hit “old” long ago, but this is yet one more confirmation of that fact.) If the sun has set, forcing my body to go out into the cold, dark night is tantamount to torture.  (Even if the evening temperatures are still hovering around 65 degrees, for me this is cold, okay?) This is unfortunate in that we have Wednesday night and Sunday night church services, and it looks strange if the pastor’s wife doesn’t show up.  If another evening event gets scheduled, I have to mentally psyche myself up for it.  Even then, I’m likely to fall asleep, which can be particularly embarrassing if it is a dinner event and I face plant into my mashed potatoes.  What happened to the woman who didn’t get her evening started until 9:00 pm?  She somehow turned into the same woman who, upon hearing the phone ring on a Friday night says, “I hope that’s not for me!”

It’s bad enough that I need a nap in the middle of the day.  Now, with the time change, the nap runs into my bedtime.  This is aggravating in and of itself, but on top of everything else, I am not a morning person.  So if I get to sleep in on a Saturday until 10 am, I only have a few hours of daylight before my body shuts down again. Maybe I need to move to one of those places which has the midnight sun.  But from my limited understanding, those areas are really, really cold!  Maybe Arizona, with no time change.

I guess I’ll just have to hibernate until spring.  Please wake me in April.  Or not.

TYING ONE ON

Last week I promised to divulge who shot JR (for those of you who care.)  It was Kristen Shepherd, JR’s sister-in-law.  Kristen was played by Mary Crosby, daughter of Bing Crosby, and in my humble opinion it is doubtful she would have ever made it as an actress had it not been for her famous father.  This was actually kind of a let down for me, as I never liked her to begin with and didn’t feel her character added anything to the show.  But there you have it.

On to a new topic—my husband, whom I haven’t written about recently. My husband has an amazing number of excellent qualities.  Fashion sense is not one of them.  Most of the time he wears blue jeans or khakis, so this is not a problem.  On Sundays, however, I am often consulted about which ties go with which shirts and pants.  My husband loves ties and has a huge collection.  Somewhere along the line, however, he acquired one (from where, I do not know) which I kindly refer to as the “butt ugly” (BU) tie.

The BU tie has a brown background, the shade of which I have never seen before except in baby poop, covered with a pattern of gold leaf-like foliage.  It is quite busy and probably would be ugly on any background, but the baby poop brown . . .  Every so often he will trot out this tie and ask if it goes with whatever he is wearing.  My answer is always the same.

“No, that tie doesn’t go with what you’re wearing.  It doesn’t go with anything you own.”  For that matter, it probably doesn’t go with anything anyone else owns, either, but I refrain from saying this.

“But I have on a yellow shirt,” he will attempt to argue.

“You’re also wearing blue pants.  The brown does not go with the blue.  Maybe if you got some brown pants you could wear that tie.”

“I don’t like brown pants,” he will say.

“Then you really don’t have anything that goes with that BU tie.”

He will look hurt for a moment.  “I like this tie,” he’ll mutter.

You’re the only one, I will think, but never say.

So the tie will go back into the closet for another few months before the ritual is repeated.

A while back, my husband’s brother and his wife came to visit for a few days, and my brother-in-law forgot to bring a tie for church. My husband told him to take his pick of the multitude of beautiful ties hanging in his closet.  Guess which one he picked.  Seriously.

“Hah!” my husband crowed.  “Look at which tie David picked!”

“Not the BU tie.”  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  “Well, at least he’s wearing brown pants.”

“What’s wrong with this tie?” my brother-in-law queried.

There was nothing I could say.  Obviously the lack of fashion sense is a genetic defect which runs in my husband’s family.  You can’t explain that to people who just don’t get it.