Friday, December 26, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Who loves fruitcake?

A few times every year, I question God’s intentions.

In the summertime, I wonder why He created mosquitoes, and, in the wintertime, I wonder what He was thinking when He allowed fruitcake to come into this world.

If an employee gets a fruitcake from the boss, the first thought is: “Oh my, I’m going to be fired.” A fruitcake from a friend means you are definitely no longer Best Friends Forever. And a fruitcake from the Mafia, well, that’s worse than a horse’s head in bed.

In fact, according to the late, great Johnny Carson, “There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”

It’s amazing how most people — nearly everyone — dislikes, despises and even hates fruitcake. It is probably the most re-gifted gift around Christmastime. Get one this year, hang onto it and re-gift it next year. I got a fruitcake last year that was made in 1956, and it looked just as good, or bad, as it did the first year it came out.

Now, my Uncle Leroy is different when it comes to fruitcake. He loves the stuff. He loves it so much that neighbors in a four-block radius of his house no longer use the fruitcake for a doorstop or an emergency brick to plug a hole in the wall. They all give the darn things to my uncle — and he snacks on them all year long. Of course, you’ve got to know my uncle; he is the exception to many things.

But how did this plague on humanity get started? And yes, I know it’s not God’s fault.

It’s the fault of those pesky colonists and their cheap sugar.

It was either a Quaker or Puritan, no one knows for sure, who discovered that fruit could be preserved by soaking it in successively greater concentrations of sugar, intensifying color and flavor. Not only could native plums and cherries be conserved. Soon fruits were being imported in candied form from other parts of the world.

Having so much sugar-laced fruit engendered the need to dispose of it in some way — thus the fruitcake. By the early 19th Century, the typical recipe was heavy as lead with citrus peel, pineapples, plums, dates, pears and cherries.

Fruitcake nuts were also an American idea, probably because America’s foremost fruitcake makers — Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, and Claxton Bakery of Claxton, Ga. — were in rural Southern communities with a surplus of cheap nuts — hence the phrase “nutty as a fruitcake.”

Unlike local mosquitoes that seemingly increase in population every summer, the number of fruitcakes populating landfills is decreasing, partially because of new laws that say no one can place an item that never dissolves or decomposes in a dump, and partially because so few people buy the stuff.

But the fruitcake will never completely disappear, drats!

It is needed for the annual Great Fruitcake Toss in Manitou Springs, Colo., where, if you don’t own a fruitcake, you can rent one for 25 cents.

And my uncle would surely die if his closet isn’t wall-to-wall fruitcake. So, if you received a dreaded fruitcake this season and need my uncle’s address, just let me know. — Rick Kron