Fruitcakes, rainbows, cash and counter checks

Friday, December 2, 2016

For nearly half a century now I’ve been extolling the virtues of the noble fruitcake.

You can see how successful I’ve been. Fruitcake’s reputation has improved little, if at all. Too bad — not for the maligned fruitcake but for the countless culinary snobs who could have been enjoying this magnificent treat all along.

In my unending efforts to persuade you and others like you to at least give a decent fruitcake a chance, I have felt at times like a one-man kazoo band sitting in the oboe section of a philharmonic orchestra playing Saint-Saens, something like the No. 3 symphony.

But, that is my lot in life. If I don’t stick up for fruitcake, who will?

First, let me say this. If you have tried fruitcake and had a bad experience, let me be the first to confirm that there is such a thing as bad fruitcake. My apologies if this has happened to you. And let me attempt, once again, to persuade you to try another slice, this time from a moist, rum-soaked, nut filled, candied-fruit confection preferably prepared by monks who have taken a vow of silence so they can contemplate endlessly on why God would have created fruitcake in the first place if it wasn’t solely for fun.

So, now you can add that to your vocabulary. Fruitcake is both noble and holy. I’m not kidding.

Did you see the rainbow Monday at sunset following the two inches of steady rain?

This incredible rainbow appeared to touch down in Fruitland and stretch to somewhere near the Mississippi River bridge, arching over Cape Girardeau like a giant holiday ribbon.

Just as the sun’s rays started to wane, a second rainbow began to form, but there wasn’t enough oomph left to fully develop.

I have seen double rainbows and triple rainbows.

Once was in Portland, Oregon. We were driving east along the Columbia River following a thunderstorm, and three rainbows appeared.

I think the best triple rainbow I’ve ever seen was when my wife and I were driving from Edinburgh to Inverness in Scotland a few years ago. We took the rainbows as a sign that we were going to have a wonderful time in the Highlands, and it turned out to be a glorious trip.

See. Pay attention to rainbows. They are not accidents.

I overheard a conversation earlier this week about how cash — bills and coins — are so rarely used these days. Credit and debit cards rule the world.

Yes, cards are the modern currency. But don’t rule out cash just yet. The banking industry says there are more than 10 billion (yes, billion with a B) ATM transactions a year in the United States. Some of those may be requests for account balances or deposits, but most of them would involve $20 bills gushing out of that slim slot.

At an average withdrawal of $40 per transaction, that means a lot of cash is still floating around and propping up the economy.

By the way, most credit cards offer rewards these days, so it makes a lot of sense to use your card even if you have cash, just to add more reward credits.

Finally, that same conversation about cash included memories of counter checks.

Remember, before credit and debit cards, that we could go into most retail establishments and find a pile of counter checks near the cash register?

No account numbers. No bank routing numbers. Just a piece of paper saying Bank A or Bank B would accept a handwritten piece of paper as satisfactory acknowledgment of a cash transaction.

About 20 years ago the Southeast Missourian had a contest to find the best ending to the sentence that starts “You know you’re from Southeast Missouri when … .”

One of the finalists, if not the winner, was “when you write a check for a 35-cent pack of gum.”

Those were the days.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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