Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don't Hate Me for What I Eat

It's the time of year again when many Americans find themselves isolated, out of step and even mocked and persecuted. I am one of them. This year I am stepping out of the shadows to plead for tolerance for this beleaguered minority. So here goes: I am the Word Crank and I like fruitcake.

I know. Listen to voices in the media—comedians, chatty newscasters and even advertisers—and you'll come away with the idea that no one likes fruitcake. In fact, no one even tries to eat them, instead making them ammunition in fruitcake tosses and other seasonal activities for fruitcake-haters. Then there's the joke that there really is only one fruitcake that has been passed around for centuries.

Fruitcakes (that's plural!) have been around for a millennium, at least. The ancestor of today's fruitcake was concocted by the Romans, and the fruitcake habit was spread along with the Roman legions throughout Europe. Each nation produced its own variety, from German stollen to Italian panforte to England's dense versions featuring marzipan and royal icing.

How can something so widespread be so generally reviled? There must be many of us, scattered throughout Western civilization, who actually enjoy fruitcake. But there's no denying that contemporary American culture frowns on the homely fruitcake.

Apparently the innocent generosity of the "cakers" is the source of so much resentment from the "anti-cakers." I gave a fruitcake as a gift. Once. That was when I found out that not everyone appreciates this delicacy. How was I to know? I grew up in a family of fruitcake eaters. A gooey slice of Claxton fruitcake was a staple snack during the Christmas seasons of my childhood.

I meant well. All fruitcake givers mean well. So please, America, can we let up on fruitcake? Can we start joking about jellied cranberry sauce, instead? Why are lovers of that stuff not the butt of jokes?

But, no. I mustn't take my cue from the anti-cakers. Surely the holiday table has room for all sorts of dishes that may not be everyone's cup of tea, such as pate or oyster dressing. Today I assert my right to enjoy this traditional Christmas cake. This year I will eat fruitcake boldly, right out in the open. That is, after I put on a hoodie and sunglasses and slip into an out-of-the-way grocery store to buy some.


  1. Yes, we must have inherited a love of fruitcake from Momma!

  2. I like fruitcake too, and I don't understand why it's criticized so often. What would the season be, without a Claxton fruitcake? And to your point,

    confirms that Claxton's fruitcake is Italian in origin.

  3. I love fruitcake, too, except for those little greenish-yellow things called citron, I think. I like a slice with egg nog. One of my favorite memories is making fruitcake with Aunt Lorena directing. It took hours to dice all the ingredients. Then she mixed it in a huge aluminum dishpan. We baked them in bundt pans, using toothpicks to test the doneness. Smelled great. Tasted better. She didn't use those icky greenish-yellow things.

  4. It's important to trickle on the rum- bourbon- brandy every couple of days for at least two months before Christmas.