My sainted mother Sally Dickey loved fruitcakes. She bought them for our home. She sent them to her sisters in California and Florida each year. Her love for fruitcakes was matched only by my fear and loathing of them. The fruitcake was a mystery to me. It was a dessert that only Edgar Allen Poe could love. I remain highly suspicious of those shiny green translucent objects infiltrating the fruit cake. Those green things never appeared in any other food product. As a child, I knew that during the rest of the year you never saw clear green things presented as edible objects unless the food was lime Jell-O. I realized these small green objects were not Jell-O. Jell-O melts. The green things in the fruitcake did not melt. They lasted for all eternity.
I remember childhood trips to Washington D.C., to visit relatives before I-95 came into existence. We would stop at a Stuckey’s on US 301 somewhere in Virginia to buy a fruitcake to take to my grandparents on the annual Christmas trip. Back in those pre-I-95 days, it took 10 hours to get from Fayetteville to D.C. The stop at Stuckey’s was a welcome break. For kids and adults alike, Stuckey’s was a wonderland of road objets d’art. You could get pecan rolls, refrigerator magnets in the shape of states, ceramic chickens with a thermometer lodged in their hind parts, toy guns and mildly risqué post cards. My personal favorite Stuckey souvenir was the drinking bird made of glass tubes filled with a red liquid. The bird wore a red top hat. You put the bird in front of a cup of water and pushed its head into the water. This started perpetual motion wherein the bird would bob its head in and out of the water for hours. This was a mystery that for a 6-year-old boy was almost worth the price of sitting in a car for 10 hours asking if we were there yet. But I digress.
Let us return to pondering the myriad mysteries of the fruitcake. The curious thing about fruitcake is that it is as good in December when it oozes out of the Acme Fruit Cake Extruder as it is in late August after it evolved into the ghost of Christmas Past. The remnants of a once proud fruitcake lurked in the back of our refrigerator for months. It silently hardened into a solid block of gluten filled holiday joy. My father would eat some of the fruitcake in December to be polite. I would eat some because I was told to do so. In reality, no one really liked fruitcake but dear old Mom. She was always dieting, so even though she loved fruitcake she ate it sparingly which resulted in the fruitcake having an unnaturally long refrigerator life.
The highest and best use of a fruitcake is to serve as a door stop. People of a certain age may recall the good old days when people still knitted. Someone would give you a lovingly knitted Christmas brick sock to put around a brick to hold open a door. You could put a fruitcake into a brick sock and no one would know the difference. The door would stay open for eternity.
Like Iraq’s yellowcake uranium, fruitcake has a half-life of about 30,000 years. After the Rapture the only things left on Earth will be fruitcakes, roaches, Twinkies and politicians. Fruitcakes represent life eternal in the form of a sugary confection filled with unknowable objects.
No fruitcakes were harmed during the writing of this column. Despite my desire not to eat any more fruitcakes, I love and respect the fruitcake. Fruitcake brings back memories of days and family members gone by. Thoughts of fruitcakes of Christmas Past warm the cockles of my gastrointestinal reflux. Go buy a fruitcake, if you can’t eat it, you can use it as a door stop.