In defense of the fruitcake
Every year, it seems there’s always an abundance of sugar consumed around the holiday season. Perhaps like your household, when I was growing up, there were cookies aplenty, plates of goodies shared from neighbors and friends. And none of it lasted very long. We loved desserts at my house. That is, until the annual Christmas fruitcake arrived in the mail, baked with care by my loving aunt. Every year it arrived. And every year, it went nearly untouched.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve started to feel a little bad for the fruitcake’s reputation. Maybe you’ve heard the running joke that there’s actually only one fruitcake in the world. It just keeps getting re-gifted on to the next person. Passed along and unwanted.
In Manitou Springs, Colorado, each winter brings the annual Fruitcake Toss, where loaves of this dense cake are catapulted into the air by hand or engineered device. In case you’re wondering, the record is 1,420 feet, when a helpless fruitcake was the victim of a concocted artillery piece utilizing compressed air. The event is advertised as a way to get rid of your unwanted holiday dessert – making the assumption, of course, that no one would actually want to eat the darn thing. But surely someone, somewhere, must enjoy them. Or else, we would’ve stopped baking them long ago, right?
However you may feel about the fruitcake, I’ve come to love seeing them show up around the Christmas season. They seem to me a rather perfect representation of the joy and faithfulness we celebrate this time of year.
For example, fruitcakes tend to appear in the first place because someone has gifted them to us. They’re a sign of generosity, not to mention the hours of effort it takes to create, or the days (weeks? months?) of patiently soaking in rum or sherry. This is no simple gift purchased on the dollar rack at Target. They are a labor of love.
While one might question a dessert with a years-long shelf life, you certainly can’t question the thoughtfulness of such an offering. Baked into those layers of dried fruits is love, care, and compassion.
I’ve decided that the whole reason a fruitcake is shared isn’t with the intention that you’ll actually eat it. Perhaps it’s so we can practice the art of receiving with grace. Maybe even to inspire our own generosity. And it lasts long enough to sit on our shelf for months, reminding us with every glance to live with gratitude.
To be clear—I don’t plan to take a bite of fruitcake anytime soon. They might rank just below liver & onions on my list of favorite foods. But I’ll still smile appreciatively every time I see one.
Maybe we could all benefit from modeling our lives after this relentless holiday treat. Tending toward sweetness. Persistent in generosity. Unabashedly ourselves, no matter what anyone else may say.
9 Comments on “In defense of the fruitcake”
I am totally on your team on this one! I love your message – we should all be a bit more like a fruitcake!
While I haven’t made one this year (we actually bought one at CostCo that has been excellent) I have several recipes for delicious fruitcakes. I guess I feel sorry for the incessant ridicule that the fruitcake receives year after year. Although, I do feel bad for the jabs pointed at the fruitcakes at this time of year, I’m also glad that this inanimate object can shoulder those jabs knowing that “it” can handle it better than a living, breathing, human being. Sometimes the Christmas season can get a little hectic and tempers can get short and, on occasion, we take it out on loved ones or strangers. This is especially a time when love should be in the air, so the next time one feels a little “edgy” and you want to vent, find a nice looking fruitcake and let ’em have it. Trust me, it will be able to handle it. p.s. The key to a good fruitcake is to leave out the citrine and use just enough dough to hold the fruit together. A little rum soaking doesn’t hurt either. signed, a lover of fruitcake.
Rick had a friend in Wisconsin that he used to order from nearly every Christmas. It was actually pretty good – moister than most. He used to dunk it in milk. My favorite was slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. To be fair, I have also had some pretty awful ones.
I must disagree with your placement of fruitcake below liver and onions! Ever year I look forward to a bite of fruitcake. Just one bite mind you, so as not to appear glutenous. On a 1-10 with liver at a 1, I would give fruitcake a strong 2.5. Like Jesus, so maligned and misunderstood. I strive to be more like Georgia… who loves Jesus, Liver and Onions and Fruitcake.
My mom and grandma made fruitcakes and I always looked forward to having some. I also love liver and onions.
We all have a drawer or box somewhere that is filled with gifts we received but had little use for, but can’t part with for one reason or another. There only value is the memories they provide.
Well Katy, for many years, I was in the NO FRUITCAKE corner until I was fortunate enough to be placed on Sister Ludmilla’s gift list! Her fruitcakes were indeed a labor of love and tended to be heavy on nuts, fruit and rum….perhaps it was the love she inserted with every loaf but I enjoyed that fruitcake from beginning to end!!
My mother in law made them many years ago! They were wonderful I know she soaked in run while it was wrapped in cheese cloth. Wonderful memories!!!
I’ve never met anyone who likes fruitcake.
This made me laugh, Katy, and I loved the message as well. I have actually tasted a fruitcake that was pretty good – maybe the nuts were the key for me. I haven’t seen one for years… sad to say some of those loving aunties may be dying out.