First things

Friday, November 19, 2010


We all have our favorites.

There's the first vine-ripened tomato of summer. Or the first daffodil of spring. Or the first apple butter in the fall. Or the first snow of winter.

My favorite first is fruitcake.

OK. I know many of you do not share my awe and reverence for the noble fruitcake. Many of you consider fruitcakes to be a terrible Yuletide joke. Some of you, given the chance, would vote to banish fruitcakes outright.

Fortunately, we live in a country where each of us can express our own holiday baked-goods preferences without fear of government retaliation. That still doesn't protect us from the jeers and barbs of family members and friends who just don't get it.

Typically, I get a bite of my first fruitcake sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Leftover fruitcake can linger in the downstairs freezer for weeks, if the year's fruitcake harvest has been bountiful.

We usually have more fruitcake than we can eat because I make such a big deal about how wonderful fruitcake is and how everyone ought to at least taste a really good fruitcake.

Personally, I have never met a fruitcake I didn't like. But that's just me.

Well, this year's first sample of fruitcake has already arrived. It came special delivery from Mary Miller -- the Mary Miller who lives in Jackson and chairs that city's planning and zoning commission and works at Southeast Hospital and was the first woman to become a member of the Rotary Club of Cape Girardeau and who served as president of that club the year before I did and who is one of the nicest people on the face of the earth. That Mary Miller, not to be confused with a town full of wonderful Mary Millers who may or may not be fruitcake bakers.

Mary called this week to say she has been taking a baking class, a baking class whose instructor thought it was important for the student bakers to learn something useful, something meaningful, something that would make a nice contribution to society and improve the world and foster peace and harmony.

God bless this person, whoever she or he is.

Last week the class made fruitcakes. And Mary brought me a "hunk" of fruitcake, knowing I was among the few people in the world who would appreciate the gift and be able to tell her, honestly, whether her baking class is worth her effort.

Mary gets an A-plus.

Her fruitcake was loaded with nuts and candied fruit and dates and a moist, rich batter that complemented the concoction and held it together as a fork carried the succulent morsels from the plate past my lips and into my mouth.

Perhaps -- just maybe -- you fancy yourself to bake a fine fruitcake yourself. Let me be the judge. Share a sample, and I'll tell you what I think. I always do.

Since this isn't a contest, no bribes are necessary, unless, of course, you want me to say wonderful things about a mediocre effort. I can do that too.

I can already tell it's going to be a great year for fruitcake. Thanks, Mary, for kicking off the season with such a spectacular effort.

Joe Sullivan is the former editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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