Fruitcake – then and now
There is just something about the word fruitcake that makes many people sort of smirk. Don’t blame me, I didn’t start it. Years ago, Johnny Carson proclaimed that only one fruitcake exists in the entire world, and it just keeps getting passed from family to family. The great humorist Erma Bombeck wrote that a fruitcake weighs more than the stove it was cooked in. Erma was my kind of girl.
This is the first year in our 43 years of marriage that there is no fruitcake in our freezer. My husband is a certified member of F.A.A. – Fruitcake Addicts Anonymous. He has never met a fruitcake he didn’t like, and he has always needed to know there was one in our freezer (think fruity-nutty security blankie), and until last August, there was. Stay tuned for the story.
This year, I was asked by way too many people if there would be a fruitcake column. I hate the stuff and wrote a column back in the ‘80s where I picked on fruitcake – actually several columns, usually in December. I stupidly did radio programs on the subject, soon discovering there are two factions of fruitcake people – those who love it and those who make fun of it and, if they get one as a gift, it ends up as a doorstop.
To my shock and awe, I started receiving recipes from women daring me to try what they considered the world’s best fruitcake. You’d think I had criticized their first-born child. My husband came home with entire fruitcakes – delivered to the radio station or this newspaper. He was happy, but it opened up a whole Pandora’s Box of fruitcake for me. Did I try the various recipes? Are you serious? Did I try a sample bite? Heck no. Maybe my mom was frightened by a fruitcake that long ago New Year’s Eve when my poor father had to brave a Nebraska blizzard and get her to the hospital on time for my noisy entrance into the world. Who knows?
There are two reasons why no fruitcake is lurking in our freezer. Back in 1997, when we briefly went to live in L.A. to play with the grandkids, someone dropped off a gift-wrapped fruitcake. The tag was dated 1997. Since we had already received two fruitcakes, this one went into the freezer and was thankfully forgotten. When we knew it was time to bail out of L.A. (again) we snuck the frozen one into daughter Rocki’s freezer. We have been playing gags on one another for years. Then in 2006, Rocki and husband, Glen, came to visit us here in Seal Rock. We didn’t watch them closely enough. In 2010, we decided to clean out the freezer in our garage. What to our wondering eyes should appear but that darn fruitcake, still gift wrapped and still dated 1997. All is fair in love and war. Last August, when we drove down to granddaughter Autumn’s wedding, guess what was buried in the bottom of my suitcase? We stayed with Rocki and Glen for a few days and waited gleefully for the right moment and stuck it in the back (way back) of their garage freezer. To our knowledge, it’s still there – but I have a sneaking suspicion it will turn up again when we least expect it.
And now, in all fairness to fruitcake lovers everywhere, I finally tasted one that is delicious. Every week at chamber luncheon we usually see Newport resident Wes Bullock. I vaguely remember Wes saying he makes about 35 fruitcakes every year for special friends and (oh no!) we were on his list. Sure enough, Wes is a man of his word, and one of his fruitcakes ended up on our kitchen counter. Burt said I had no choice but to try it, out of respect for someone who went to all the trouble. Wes packs his creations in so much professional-type shrink wrap I practically needed a chain saw to get it open – not that I was in a hurry. Burt immediately took a big slice, a glass of milk and happily headed for his favorite chair. It’s a good thing I stayed perched on a kitchen stool. The first bite was so unusually delicious that I went for an entire slice. I don’t know what all Wes puts in his fruitcake – certainly not those horrible phony rubbery fruit chunks. But when I stepped off my stool, I was definitely dizzy, which makes me think Wes must put an entire bottle of brandy in each one of his concoctions. I’m probably wrong, but I’m also not much of a drinker. So the second reason there is presently no fruitcake in our freezer is because Burt devoured 80 percent of Wes Bullock’s’ fruitcake, and all I got was two measly slices and an order from my husband not to drive until I sobered up.
And now, here is a day brightener sent in by several people.
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Dear Santa: I don’t want much for Christmas. I just want the person reading this to be healthy and happy. Friends are the fruitcake of life. Some are nutty. Some are soaked in alcohol. Some are sweet. But mix them together, and they are all my friends. Share this message with all the fruitcakes in your life.
• • •
I just did. And thanks, Wes. Just maybe, after all these years, you have made me a fruitcake convert. To Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda, if you’re reading this, and if Wes ever gives us another fruitcake, I promise not to indulge and drive.
Happy (hic) New Year, everyone.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her husband, Burt, their dog, Charley, and a shelter cat named Lap Sitter. Bobbie can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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