City of Roses
Why All The Hate For Fruitcake?
By: Noah Eaton
In December, there is no gift more dreaded or feared,
that when stored in an airtight tin can last twenty-six years,
comprised of dried fruit and mixed nuts, and weighs over two pounds,
it’s like a game of “Hot Potato” once it makes the rounds.
Each year it’s been treated as the kingpin of doorstops,
some use it as a replacement for their Duraflame log,
relatives aside, fruitcake can make some people scared straight,
treating it like a pin cushion or some large paperweight.
My friends use it instead of sand bags during El Nino,
and my cat Poodeedoots uses it as a scratching post,
most find this mainstay nuttier than Charles Everett Koop,
their first instinct being to ship it off to Guadeloupe.
Some even pass it on as something they get for Christmas,
for the host of a New Years Party, offered as a gift,
there’s a line drawn in the flour: you love it or hate it,
but why all the hate for fruitcake, now THAT’S a good question.
There used to be a time when fruitcake plainly reigned supreme,
dating back to ancient Rome, where their type of recipe,
consisted of pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins,
all mashed up with barley, which just happened to phase in.
It was prized for its portability and shelf life,
in fact, they brought it to the battlefield with them each fight,
eventually fruit and spices were added to the mix,
during the Middle Ages when crusaders got their fix.
By the 1400’s, the British worshipped their fruitcake,
when dried fruits from the Mediterranean came one day,
and with the colonies having a boon in cheap, raw goods,
sugar was added, making it dense as petrified wood.
By the eighteenth century, their love became obsessive,
when they baked fruitcakes at the end of every nut harvest,
to save and nibble the next year to renew the cycle,
in the hope that such robust harvests can be recycled.
By 1837, fruitcake was the treat to beat,
it became the centerpiece to each Victorian Tea,
Queen Victoria even waited a whole year, some say,
to eat a birthday fruitcake so that she would show good taste.
Can you believe there once was a custom in the UK,
for unmarried wedding guests to put a slice of the cake,
under their pillow at night so they will dream of the one,
they will marry someday, that special someone that they love?
In fact, their love was too strong; it became “sinfully rich”,
and fruitcakes were banned all across Continental Europe,
throughout the 1800’s, fruitcake suffered a setback,
but nonetheless remained a much sought-after teatime snack.
To this day, fruitcake remains revered all around the world……
……except in the United States, where it makes people hurl,
where it used to be as popular as ribbon candy,
oh, right, you don’t know what that is, consult your great granny.
Yet, in the early 90’s, Johnny Carson cracked a joke,
on the “Tonight Show” that dealt fruitcake a most fatal blow,
claiming there’s only one fruitcake in human existence,
and folks keep sending it to each other like a virus.
His jape best determined its place in the modern psyche,
gibing some fruitcake sent him a fruitcake tirelessly,
comedians keep milking that chestnut without a care,
citing you can’t find it on any menu anywhere.
Five hundred even show up each year in Manitou Springs,
for the Great Fruitcake Toss to test their projectile moxie,
where they hurl and launch fruitcakes with a spun gun gloatingly,
once one was catapulted four hundred and twenty feet.
Fruitcakes are now even being treated as guinea pigs,
in “Iron Science Teacher” and other experiments,
dropping fruitcakes in all different sizes to demonstrate,
Galileo's famed Leaning Tower of Pisa assay.
Recently, nutrition scientist Thom Castonguay,
used a bomb calorimeter to blow up some fruitcakes,
to measure the heat from the explosion accurately,
so he can find out its total amount of calories.
And yet, I reiterate: “Why all the hate for fruitcake?”
After all, they are baked and made in many different ways,
the Georgia Fruit Cake Company has a Womble’s Fruit Cake,
that’s laced with Old Taylor bourbon, great for the holidays.
The Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas,
makes theirs with pecans, bound to tickle your solar plexus,
fruitcake sales are the sole source of income for Trappist monks,
down in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, made with God’s love.
Besides, fruitcake has a wide, overlooked family tree,
that includes its Italian relative: panettone,
which sometimes is baked with a bitter candied orange peel,
yet that hasn’t hampered its undeniable appeal.
Then there’s the German take on it, widely known as stollen,
which keeps the chopped nuts but adds thin icing on the surface,
it also has a shy Polish cousin named makowiec,
rolled strudel-style, filled with honey, dates and poppy seeds.
Laugh now, fruitcake haters, the lovers shall have the last laugh,
slowly but surely fruitcake is making a cult comeback,
haven’t you noticed the abundance of dried fruits lately,
at your local supermarket, over on Aisle Three?
It’s even showing up in your Honey Bunches of Oats,
it’s all part of fruitcake lovers’ PR campaign, you know,
to acclimate you to the taste of dried fruit once more,
ultimately hoping fruitcake’s legacy is restored.
Step two of their ingenious plan is to change this treat’s name,
let’s face it, “fruitcake” has earned too much bad press at this stage,
but what about Jack Daniels Bourbon Cake, now there’s a pitch,
it will gain broad acceptance once they make the sudden switch.
Until then, they remain stacked like cordwood at grocery stores,
a garish brick of equivocal age, mocked to the core,
assumed not food but some rock chipped off a meteorite,
that Rudy Giuliani stuffed in my mailbox last night.
Come, my friend, please move beyond your cognitive dissidence,
and give fruitcake another chance, it can be quite scrumptious,
and if you still don’t like it once you give it one more try,
head to Manitou Springs and blow that stale sucker sky high!
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other"