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.