Noble fruitcake: A few facts you need to know

Friday, December 4, 2009

The noble fruitcake -- called "manna" in Exodus -- is enduring yet another year of sourpuss comments and jokes. But it will survive, just as it has since its beginnings in ancient Rome. Or ancient Egypt. Take your pick. Both claims are questionable anyway. I say the first fruitcake came from Eve's very own oven.

Archaeologists have found fruitcake remains in Egyptian tombs. The delicious baked goods were intended to provide nourishment for the afterlife of Egypt's rich and famous. Think about it. Of all the edible goodies the Egyptians could have chosen to eat for eternity, they picked fruitcakes.

Hence, noble fruitcake.

Many years ago I assumed the mantle of Chief Fruitcake Advocate, a lonely job. I don't like fruitcake. I love fruitcake. I have made it my mission to pass along fruitcake facts. Most folks don't believe what I tell them about fruitcakes, but what is there to gain from making up stuff about a food that is so universally loathed?

Fact: Some fruitcakes found in Egyptian tombs are still edible. Many fruitcake haters believe that's where the fruitcake Aunt Martha sent this year came from.

Fact: According to Harper's, fruitcake has the same density as mahogany. A website called The Great Fruitcake Recycling Project boldly proclaims its motto, "Fruitcake: The Other White Wood." See how nasty some people can be?

Fact: Fruitcake was outlawed in 18th century Europe during a period of religious intolerance that found fruitcake to be "sinfully rich." This is why so many Europeans left for America. They were tired of fruitcake persecution.

Fact: All those immigrants arrived in a land where, according to a recent poll, 38 percent of recipients give away the fruitcakes they receive, 28 percent eat the stuff, 13 percent use it as a doorstop, 9 percent feed it to the birds, 4 percent throw it away and 8 percent couldn't remember. It's that last lot that foments most of the hate crimes against fruitcakes.

Fact: Fruitcakes, some zealots say, are an environmental hazard. They say a fruitcake tossed into a landfill takes 50 years to begin decomposing and releasing dangerous greenhouse gases. Come on, guys. Nothing in a landfill is good for the environment. Why pile all the blame on fruitcakes?

Fact: Fruitcakes are the most durable Christmas presents ever invented. According to humorist Dave Barry, "Fruitcakes make ideal gifts because the Postal Service has been unable to find a way to damage them."

Fact: Old, dried-out fruitcakes need not be tossed in the trash. They can be revived by soaking them in rum. What else do I need to say?

Fact: I have already received my first fruitcake of the season from Dolly Dambach, who makes exquisite small loaves stuffed with candied fruit. You too can show your allegiance to the noble fruitcake by letting me sample a slice or two. Remember, it's better to give than ... . You know the drill.<I>

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